Crossroads Asia

Daughter of Kazakhstan’s President Appointed Deputy Prime Minister

In Kazakhstan, it seems, there are second chances for daughters tainted by political scandal.

Daughter of Kazakhstan’s President Appointed Deputy Prime Minister
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Evstafiev

After a few years lying low, Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest daughter of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has moved into the political spotlight once more. Last week Nazarbayev appointed Nazarbayeva as deputy prime minister. As Joanna Lillis noted on Eurasianet, a specific reason for the appointment has not been identified. Many view the move as potentially part of the 75-year-old president’s succession plans — though that, too, is speculation.

Nazarbayeva, like many of the children of Central Asia’s autocrats, has held a number of prominent positions in and around government. Up until 2004 she directed Khabar Agency, a major media company which broadcasts daily in Kazakh and Russian and controls Kazakh TV. In  2003 she founded a political party that merged with the country’s dominant party, her father’s Nur Otan, in 2006. During her first foray into politics proper, she served in the parliament as deputy speaker. But in 2007, she stepped down as the clouds of scandal overwhelmed her family.

Nazarbayeva’s former husband, Rakhat Aliyev, had a drawn-out fall from power that ended abruptly in February 2015 with an apparent suicide in a jail cell in Austria. The details are muddled and sound like a movie plot, including two assassinated opposition politicians, a pair of vanished bankers (later found dead), an alleged coup plot, massive money laundering schemes, divorce, a hasty remarriage and name change, flight to Malta “one step ahead of an Interpol warrant,” a failed attempt to get Cypriot citizenship, arrest and imprisonment in Austria, and conviction in absentia in Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, Nazarbayeva left parliament to head her father’s charity fund. In 2012, Nazarbayeva returned to politics, rejoining parliament under Nur Otan and in April 2014 taking up the position of deputy speaker again.

By separating herself from Aliyev (reports say she divorced him under pressure from her father) and keeping a low profile for a few years, Nazarbayeva seems to have navigated through the worst of it. In neighboring Uzbekistan, the daughter of Islam Karimov, Gulnara Karimova, is still under house arrest after her flamboyant lifestyle and nefarious business deals caused one too many international fires. While Nazarbayeva was certainly tainted by Aliyev’s alleged crimes, she was not directly accused of corruption in the way Karimova has been.