Intrigue of Kazakhstan: Who Will be The True Heir of Nazarbayev


The combination, played by Nursultan Nazarbayev at the pinnacle of the power of Kazakhstan, is becoming more and more clear. The unexpected resignation from the presidency with the transfer of this position to Kasym Tokayev was only the first stage. The next step was the election of Nazarbayev’s daughter, Dariga, as Speaker of the Senate. What will be the future moves of Nazarbayev and is Dariga a real heir?

The sudden decision of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to resign does not mean the end of the 30-year rule. The father of independent Kazakhstan simply decided to create a sustainable construction of the post-Nazarbayev government already during his lifetime. That is, to accustom citizens to the candidacy of a new leader, so that after Nazarbayev leaves the world, another Kazakh elite and people will not wallow in the struggle for power and distemper. Considering that Kazakhstan was created and established as a state largely due to the personality of Nazarbayev, such a strategic approach deserves respect: the former member of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee wants its creation to survive. But to whom will Nazarbayev leave Kazakhstan?

Similarly, not to the new president - Kasym Tokayev is a career diplomat who has been engaged in foreign policy all his life. He has neither an independent political weight, nor the authority necessary for independent leadership of the republic. In addition, he is 65 years old - that is, there can be no talk of a 78-year-old Nazarbayev inheriting from him. Tokayev will lead the republic for at least a year - until the next elections in April 2020. And then there are two options with one final - either he will be elected to the presidency and will continue the formal leadership with Nazarbayev alive, so that by the next election, in 2025, he will be replaced by a real successor. Or, in the April 2020 elections, Nazarbayev will nominate a real heir to the presidency.

But even in the case of the first option, that is, election in 2020, it is clear that Tokayev will hold the presidency only temporarily in order to resign at the right moment and transfer power to those specified in the constitution. That is, the head of the upper chamber of Kazakhstan - the Senate.

On Wednesday, Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest daughter of Nursultan, became the speaker of the senate.

It is the eldest, Dariga, who has long been considered by him as the main candidate. The other two daughters have never been involved in politics.

By her 55 years, Dariga has already managed to guide both the largest media holding of the republic, the party, and the bank, to be a member of the lower house of parliament and deputy prime minister. She has three academic degrees - candidate of historical sciences, doctor of political science and doctor of economics. She is the Head of various Kazakhstani charity societies and is in the leadership of several international media forums.

She studied singing professionally and sometimes even gives concerts. Dariga has three children - and the eldest, Nurali, is already 34 years old.

But Dariga has no husband - she divorced in 2007. And it was after this that many considered her political career over. Experts have ceased to see in her potential heir to the father (as it turns out now - in vain). No, not because of a divorce, but because of what caused it and what followed it.

By 2007, Dariga had been married to Rakhat Aliyev for nearly a quarter of a century - first a medical man, then a businessman, then a general, first deputy chairman of the National Security Committee of Kazakhstan and deputy head of the Nazarbayev security service. Aliyev was considered one of the most powerful people in Kazakhstan - but in early 2002, Nazarbayev made his son-in-law the head of the National Olympic Committee, and in the summer he sent an ambassador to Austria.

It was a disgrace. And although in 2005 Aliyev returned to Astana, becoming the first deputy foreign minister, he did not last long. Already in early February of 2007, he was again sent as ambassador to Austria - from which he was not destined to return.

Because in early May he was dismissed from his post as ambassador and was put on the international wanted list for kidnapping for the purpose of extortion. It was about the three leaders of Nurbank, from whom the president’s son-in-law, and so the former largest shareholder of the bank, demanded money (apparently, accusing them of embezzlement). Two of the three after that disappeared - and their bodies were found only a few years later.

Aliyev received an appointment as ambassador to Austria on February 9 — exactly on the day when he abducted his bank’s employees. That is, in fact, he hoped to sit out abroad - but in May a criminal case was opened against him, Nazarbayev dismissed him, and later deprived of all awards. In 2008, Aliyev was convicted in absentia for 20 years, but Austria refused to extradite the former ambassador and former son-in-law.

Dariga divorced her husband literally a month after the initiation of a criminal case and for the next few years focused on social activities. The Kazakhstani opposition even spread rumors about her emigration, but Dariga remained in Kazakhstan. The former husband declared himself an oppositionist and a victim of the regime, and only in the summer of 2014 he surrendered to the Austrian authorities, waiting for the next extradition court. In early 2015, he was found hanged in the bathroom of a prison in Vienna. Several experts have acknowledged his death as suicide.

In September of the same year, Dariga became deputy prime minister. But having stayed in this position just a year, moved to the Senate. As it is now becoming clear, this was done with a long-range sight.

Given that those familiar with Dariga speak well of her mind and character, it’s hard to imagine that Nazarbayev would dare to leave the country on fragile women's shoulders. But he is not going to do it - and this is why: Dariga will rule relying on the Nazarbayev family clan. And it is quite large and well placed in key positions.

Nursultan had two brothers - now only Bolat survived, but he has no political weight. The younger brother, Satybaldy, died in a car accident very young, at 34 years old. But his two sons had already grown up and became generals. Senior Kairat 49, and the youngest, Samatu, 40 - and since December 2015 he has been working as the first deputy head of the National Security Committee. Samat changed his last name to Abish - in honor of his grandfather, father Nursultan.

Now General Abish is also seen as a likely successor to Nazarbayev. There were even rumors that a few years ago, his uncle represented him in that capacity to Vladimir Putin. It is clear that it will be possible to judge the plans of Nazarbayev with respect to Samat Abish by the appointments he will receive in the coming years, but so far it is most likely that he will become just one of Dariga’s most important pillars during her reign.

Nazarbayev also has several nephews, including those who held various leadership positions, including ministerial. But they, as the former head of Almaty Akhmetzhan Yesipov and the former head of the Senate, the National Security Committee and the ambassador in Moscow Nurtai Abykayev, are no longer young - Esipov is 68, and Abykayev is 71 years old. But there is a more successful son-in-law than Aliyev. Timur Kulibayev is the husband of Dinara, another daughter of Nazarbayev.

The richest man in Kazakhstan, the president of the local Olympic Committee and the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, is young enough - he is 52 years old. The problem is that Kulibayev, like Aliyev, also claimed for himself as Nazarbayev's heir, and it is completely unclear how his relationship with Dariga would develop when she became head of the clan.

In addition, Nazarbayev has several grandchildren, and although now the eldest is only 34, it is clear that over time they will occupy more and more visible posts.

The strength of the Nazarbayev clan is at the same time its weakness. While they are united by their grandfather, but where is the guarantee that they will not be distracted after his death? Nazarbayev needs to solve two problems at once - to make sure that the rights of his clan to inherit the power are not challenged by the Kazakhstani elite as a whole, and not to allow the clan inside the clan when he is no longer alive. The second task is no less difficult than the first one, and therefore Nazarbayev will try to make the relations within the clan balanced for the remaining time.

At the same time, he still cannot do without a sole heir-leader. Whether Dariga, Samat Abish or one of the grandchildren will be the leader depends largely on how much time is left for Nazarbayev. For example, in 10 years the chances of grandchildren who now do not even claim to inherit their grandfather, will greatly increase.

Of course, one can hypocritically condemn Nazarbayev for the transfer of power within the family, but what alternatives does he have? Kazakhstan appeared on the world map by accident due to the sudden tragic death of the USSR. Thanks to Nazarbayev, this Soviet republic took place as a state with all the drawbacks and problems, but much more successful than most of the rest of the fragments of the Union.

The Kazakhs did not have the tradition of statehood, they were divided according to tribal and clan principles, and if after the death of Nazarbayev there begins a struggle for power, then the state created by him can simply collapse and disappear.

Of course, Nazarbayev does not want such a fate to his offspring - and choosing between leaving the power to a specially prepared successor or a similarly trained relative, he will no doubt stay with relatives. Because he trusts them more, knows them better and their power will be sanctified his name and the authority that he himself earned.

So far, in the post-Soviet space there was only one experience of the transfer of power by inheritance - in Azerbaijan from Heydar to Ilham Aliyev. But one should not think that such transfers of power are peculiar only to Islamic or authoritarian regimes. No, this is a property of various states - and not only monarchies. Most of the countries of the present world were formed after the Second World War, and if we carefully look at how the highest power was formed there, we will see a lot in common.

Clan Bhutto, albeit intermittently, ruled in Pakistan, the Nehru clan in India, several members of the Bandaranaike family ruled Sri Lanka. In the Philippines, several families replaced each other in the presidential chair; in Indonesia and in Myanmar, the daughters of the founders of the republic came to power. Yes, far from everywhere it was a direct transfer - well, so they exist much more than a 27-year-old Kazakhstan.

The settled states of the West do not seem to practice inheritance at first glance. But we will not even cite the example of Bush or Trudeau - the real mechanisms of power, money and influence in Anglo-Saxon countries have been in the hands of several families for dozens or even hundreds of years.

The demonstrative change of premiers and presidents does not affect the very existence of these states - the state apparatus and the elite are stable. But in the case of Kazakhstan, very much, if not all, depends on the change of the first person. Nazarbayev wants Kazakhstan to survive.