30 september 2020

Central Asia news

Power crisis or regrouping? Serious changes are taking place in Kazakh politics. What the president himself wants is anybody's guess

10.09.2007 09:12 msk

Rossiiskiye Vesti

Analytics Kazakhstan

Some serious political developments occurred in Kazakhstan in late summer. The list of the most important events includes criminal charges pressed against Rahat Aliyev (husband of president's daughter Dariga), dismissal of Timur Kulibayev (another presidential son-in-law) form the post of Samruk holding assistant chairman, and parliamentary election (won by Nor-Otan, the party no longer chaired by Dariga Nazarbayeva).

When pro-presidential Otan absorbed some other political parties and organizations and became Nur-Otan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev told his daughter Dariga who was the head of the Asar party, "Tell them [Asar members] you are going back to your father." Dariga was one of Nur-Otan's three assistant chairpersons (which meant a somewhat lower political and social status for her than before) until recently.

The EU hailed the parliamentary election in Kazakhstan but the international monitoring mission stated that "the election on August 18 failed to meet some international standards, specifically with regard to the acting legislation and vote-counting procedures." Enraged by establishment of a single party parliament, the opposition urged Nazarbayev to order another election.

Danijar Khasenov, the husband of Nazarbayev's third daughter Aliya, seems to be fine for the time being, with nothing to threaten his position.

Clearly aiming to reduce his own family's presence in Kazakh politics, Nazarbayev must have decided on this course of action upon consideration of his own plans for the future. Some experts who know what they are talking about used to regard Aliyev as the likeliest candidate for presidency in all of Kazakhstan. A general of law enforcement agencies, Aliev had numerous contacts both in security structures and in the business community.

As a matter of fact, general public viewed him and Dariga as "political heirs" and chalked off their actions, frowned at by society more often than not, to Nazarbayev's patronage. Nazarbayev in the meantime kept reassigning Aliyev to new and new jobs, each position somewhat lower than the previous. A series of crimes (abduction of executives of major private businesses and assassinations) sealed Aliyev's fate. Nazarbayev decided that all of that was not exactly promoting his own image and stepped in. Clearly determined to remain in the driver's seat and even get international approval, he attacked.

On the one hand, Nazarbayev essentially eliminated opposition in the country without using muscle too much or bending the law in too obvious a manner. On the other, he developed a political system in the country that differs from the ones existing in neighbor states. Moreover, Nazarbayev never became an odious post-Soviet dictator in the eyes of the West even despite the Kazakh-gate scandal. This latter constitutes a problem in Astana's relations with Washington because US judiciary is touchy about corruption and particularly when American citizens are involved (in this particular case, the Americans in question were advisors to the government of Kazakhstan).

In other words, August 2007 became a period when Nazarbayev secured his reign at the cost of his family's clout. Time will show what effect all of that will have on Kazakh politics. There is in the meantime another aspect of the problem. Will Nazarbayev's counterparts in the region, ones whose relatives entertain serious political or economic ambitions too, decide to follow in his steps and set out to create new "systems without family involvement"?

Alik Nazarov

Rossiiskiye Vesti, No 29, September 6, 2007, EV