Dariga–the Heiress and the “Bad Boys”

As the President’s successor, Dariga Nazarbayeva may please many external players: the Russians, the Americans and perhaps even the Chinese, Russian political expert Andrey Grozin believes. But it is not a sure bet that she will become one. In Moscow, many are betting on Samat Abish as well.

Following the President’s appeal to the Constitutional Council, the talks of the successor in Kazakhstan have revived with new energy. Kz.expert is eager to learn whom they envision as the Kazakh President’s successor in Russia. Head of the Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan at the CIS Institute Andrey Grosin has given us an interview on the subject.

- Andrey Valentinovich, following the President’s appeal to the Constitutional Council, the talks of the successor have revived with new energy in Kazakhstan. Do you think Dariga Nazarbayeva’s can really be nominated as one?

- Recently, I have participated in a round-table conference called “The Multi-Vector Nature of Central Asia: the Kazakh Version” held at the Moscow office of the Dialogue of Civilizations research institute. I have presented a report on Kazakhstan’s external policy. The topic of who is to become Kazakhstan’s next president has been introduced beyond the scope of the main discussion. I answered that, if the process of the power transfer starts today, Dariga Nursultanovna will be named the successor. But, if it is to start in a month, it is quite possible that she will not be named one.

The people’s turnover around the Kazakh throne happens so fast that it is impossible to build any kind of serious prognostic models for the period longer than right now or one week. Those who say they know more than others are stretching the truth. I presume “the number one” (Nazarbayev – kz.expert) is also constructing his own strategy based on the current situation: a week or two in advance. Among other things, in regard to the power transit.

Recall how Adilbek Dzhaksybekov’s career made a crucial U-turn last year (your portal has written plenty on the subject). Even my most respected Kazakh elite experts had not predicted anything of the sort up until Dzhaksybekov’s retirement. There had been absolutely no indications that could have pointed to the possibility of his rapid exit from power. 

The resignation was like a bolt from the blue. And to think that, as recently as half a year ago, this person was considered one of the most important participants of the upcoming power transit. Is there anyone who thinks so now? I think not. Also, recall the fates of Rakhat Aliyev, Aslan Musin…

Yes, at the moment, Dariga Nazarbayeva seems a likely candidate. But who knows what is going to happen in a couple of weeks?

- Still, speaking purely theoretically, how do you assess her chances?

- Dariga Nazarbayeva has not been lucky in terms of the people closest to her. Obviously, we are not talking about her father. We are talking about her first husband Rakhat Aliyev who was quite a character and whose fate was quite sad. OK, the people in Kazakhstan have partially forgotten about Mr. Aliyev, but now their son has been mixed up in some silly stuff for the past couple of months. These strange familial circumstances play against Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter. One may say, they are screwing her over, working against Dariga Nursultanovna.

I believe if we are to choose the familial scenario as the basic one, then gearing towards Nazarbayev’s distant relatives, someone like Samat Abish (the First Deputy Chief of the NSC, the Presidents’ nephew – kz.expert) seems a more practical option.

- Why?

- The close relatives live in the conditions of the absolute favour. They have gotten too comfortable living behind Nazarbayev’s wide back. In other words, having grown in the hothouse conditions, these people will not be able to exist outside of it.

Yes, for Nursultan Nazarbayev, the familial scenario is beneficial in the sense that he can rely on these people with much more certainty. He can trust that they are not going to betray him, are not going to edit out the “all-encompassing historic role of the current President” from the future textbooks.

But, to rule a country, one must still possess certain moral and volitional powers which is the weak spot of Nazarbayev’s entire kissing kin.

By the way, in Moscow, many are betting on Samar Abish. Albeit with caution: they say it would be not a bad thing if he was chosen as the successor. But these are but theories that are worth absolutely nothing. Because those same people, when asked about this young man’s administrative experience, acknowledge that there is none. Will he gain it? Of course. But the question is whether the internal situation in Kazakhstan will give him the time to do so.

Dariga Nazarbayeva has got the same problem. However, her nomination as the successor may undoubtedly please many external players: the Russians, the Americans and perhaps even the Chinese. Therefore, I repeat, if the President decides to resign in the nearest future, the eldest daughter is likely to become his successor. This is how I assess the situation at present.

Generally speaking, the President may nominate anyone he pleases due to his gigantic powers. And the society will accept his choice since, first, no one is going to ask its opinion and, second, they will market it in such a way that the society itself will say – we favor the stability, we favor the continuity… In this regard, Dariga Nursultanovna has great advantages. It will be the same under her rule as it used to be under the rule of her father. But, I repeat, in order to not just covet the Presidency but to obtain it and to hold on to it in such a problem-plagued country as Kazakhstan, one needs to have a great range of the qualities that I believe Dariga Nursultanovna is lacking. 

Undoubtedly, she is a strong, independent woman. Obviously, she is capable of holding on to the power initially. But, gradually, the mainstay of her father, the first President, on which the vertical hinges is going to fade away. And as this process progresses, the problems and obligations will start piling up, the unpleasant decisions will have to be made.

In other words, the lesser of the old President’s way and the more of the new one’s will be in the system, the less stable it is going to be. And, presently, this is the most crucial problem that should concern Nazarbayev.

- What do you think of Nazarbayev’s appeal to the Constitutional Council requesting an explanation of the Constitutional norms regarding the President’s resigning options? 

- The speculations about his desire to retire (or lack thereof) are but the reflected light of a bigger problem that has to do with the fact that the President, it seems, is unable to find an adequate replacement neither in this closest circle nor among the more distant allies not related to him by blood.

Obviously, the President is desperately seeking not only a mechanism of the power transfer related to its institutes. As someone who comes from the Soviet tines, Nazarbayev is deeply aware of one simple thing - it’s all about the people. The people’s individual features determine whether they are going to be successful managing the task entrusted to them by the president. The young technocrats, all those “beybeks”, “isekeshevs”, etc. are all very nice people but the President will not take a chance of entrusting them with a serious and important task that demands statecraft.

By the way, the Russian press is now writing more on the subject of the possible successors and their prospects. Previously, the Kazakh agenda lied outside of the main scope. It was understood that there was Nursultan Abishevich and some interest-lacking little guys. Now the situation has changed dramatically. One can see it when comparing the Russian texts on Kazakhstan of last year with those of present time. In other words, the problem of the transit has become of interest to the public.

Fundamentally, however, for Russia, it is not important who seizes the throne – Dariga, Samat, or someone else. If the power transit happens without emergency, without the internal squabbling, then the existing power model will be reproduced, among other things, in terms of external policy.

The Kremlin is comfortable with it. And if Dariga is the one to become the President, the Russians will injure their palms applauding and cheering the gender progress. In that regard, Dariga Nursultanovna’s situation looks rather bright. But it still means nothing. Before the Zhanaozen events, Aslan Musin’s dreams of being the next president were practically becoming reality. And where is he now?

- Going back to the growing interest to the Kazakh agenda, the Runet has recently been swept over by a large wave of the compromising materials against the influential persons from Nazarbayev’s circle…

- Do you mean Kenes Rakishev? In my opinion, they are now trying to milk him in every way possible. Do not try to find politics here. Kenes, it appears, gave money to someone in order to buy his way out of trouble and a line of those wanting to make a pretty penny out of it has immediately been formed. Here, like in a pail with holes in it, nothing will hold – even the most secret and closeted agreements that have to do with the compensation payments become known to all.

So, perhaps it is because of the money that Rakishev has been painted as a bad boy on some Russian websites. And the hit on him (as well as on the other people) has been ordered by Akorda (although I cannot say it with certainty).

What I mean is that most current initiatives related to not only the internal political process in Kazakhstan but also to the issues of positioning the Kazakh elite and its individual representatives in Russia, in the West, in China originate from Kazakhstan. They do not and will not say this. I am presenting this to you as my own subjective opinion. It seems to me that the problems which certain representatives of the Kazakh elite experience with the Russian press have the exclusively Kazakh origin and one should enquire about them not in Russia but in Astana.

- Thank you, this has been very interesting.


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