Dariga Nazarbayeva is staging a political comeback in Kazakhstan. After four years in the wilderness, Nazarbayeva, daughter of strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, is to stand for parliament on the ticket of her father’s ruling Nur Otan party. In Kazakhstan's micromanaged political system, it's an almost certain bet that she’ll get in.
Nur Otan unveiled its party list for the January 15 election at its party congress today. This is a remarkable comeback for the president's eldest daughter, who fell out of favor thanks to the antics of her former husband Rakhat Aliyev in 2007. Aliyev was once a powerful political and economic player in Kazakhstan, but his machinations finally became too much for Nazarbayev when he was linked to the abduction of two bankers. Criminal charges were filed against him, and Nazarbayeva divorced him.
The bankers' bodies were found this year, prompting a murder charge against Aliyev, who’s already been found guilty in absentia on charges including abduction, racketeering and plotting a coup d'etat. Aliyev, who regularly emits a stream of online vitriol against his former father-in-law, is now reported to be living in Malta under the surname of his new wife, Shoraz.
This isn’t Nazarbayeva's first foray into politics: She was once a member of parliament from the Asar party, which she led before it merged into Nazarbayev’s own party, of which Nazarbayeva then became deputy chairman.
But the president seems to have a short memory: At the Nur Otan congress he made the bizarre claim that after January’s election Kazakhstan will be getting its first multiparty parliament.
“Based on the results of the vote, a parliament operating on a multiparty basis with the participation of no fewer than two factions will be formed for the first time,” Nazarbayev said, apparently forgetting that all Kazakhstan’s parliaments up to 2007, when only Nur Otan won seats in the election, contained more than one party.
Nazarbayev’s remarks came two days after he met with his new adviser extraordinaire, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Perhaps Blair might want to offer the president a piece of advice: Don’t rewrite political history in a bid to burnish your democratic credentials.