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Nazarbaeva Bids To Unite Pro-Presidential Forces

PRAGUE, June 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The eldest daughter of Kazakhstan's president has called for a consolidation of pro-presidential forces, telling party colleagues on June 19 that it is time to unite the president's backers into a single political party.

Talk in Kazakhstan for several months has been that Darigha and her father, President Nursultan Nazarbaev, have experienced a falling-out. But when Darigha made her call for groups supporting the president to unite, she said the aim was "to become genuine support for our common leader -- Nursultan Nazarbaev -- and to provide a dignified life to all Kazakh citizens."

Nazarbaeva's connection to the state media agency Khabar and her opposition to proposed amendments to the media law may have played some part in her comments. Parliament is currently debating the controversial amendments, which have been criticized by international free-press groups.

Raising Her Profile

Independent Kazakh political analyst Dosym Satpaev argues that the likely passage of the media amendments represents a defeat for Darigha, who is a member of parliament, and her 2 1/2-year-old Asar (All Together) party. On the other hand, he says passage would signal a victory for Information and Culture Minister Ermukhammet Ertisbaev, once the acting chairman of the country's ruling party.

"The position of Darigha Nazarbaeva and her group [Asar] has weakened," Satpaev says. "This is of course due to her defeat in the battle with the information and culture minister over amendments to legislation regulating the media. It happens that [Nazarbaeva's] speech was to a certain degree an attempt to give the government food for thought."

Asylbek Kozhakmetov, leader of the unregistered opposition party Alga, agrees. He thinks Nazarbaeva's speech could be an attempt to regain personal and political influence after a bruising six months.

"Over the last half year, relations between Darigha Nursultan Kizi [Nazarbaeva] and Nursultan Abishevich [Nazarbaev] are not good," Kozhakmetov says. "She's sort of under pressure now -- I mean [regarding] the situation around Khabar and the new draft legislation on media. This is her answer, her political response, to that situation. She calls for being united, for being together -- which might be a way to temper pressure from the president's office."

Serious Offer?

There are 12 registered political parties in Kazakhstan -- nine of them are firmly inside the presidential camp. It is unclear how many might sign on to a project to unite them formally. The ruling Otan party is a question, in particular, as it already enjoys a huge majority in both houses of the Kazakh parliament and its membership is more than twice that of any other party. Some of Otan's senior members might also harbor presidential ambitions.

Some observers in Kazakhstan and abroad think Nazarbaeva has political ambitions of her own, and might be eying a run at the presidency in 2013, when her father's current term expires.

After all, Nazarbaeva argued on June 19 that her vision of a united party could rule virtually unrivaled "for the next 50 years." Analyst Satpaev notes that Nazarbaeva has made such calls before -- but she has never elaborated on them to such an extent.

The leader of the pro-presidential Civic Party, Azat Peruashev, has expressed interest in Nazarbaeva's overture. But he also says any decision by his party on such a union would have to made at a party congress.

"The statement by Darigha Nursultan Kizi was no accident," Peruashev tells RFE/RL. "If we officially get a recommendation, we will have to discuss it. But under the [election] law, this kind of decision may only be made by an all-party congress."

A parliamentarian from the ruling Otan party, Serik Abdrakhmanov, suggests that Nazarbaeva's statement is actually part of preparations for early parliamentary elections.

"Possibly next year, elections to the Mazhilis [the lower house of parliament] will be held by party list," Abdrakhmanov says. "There might be more seats in the parliament. Maybe [Darigha's statement] was made with that in mind."

'Dear Father...'

But analyst Satpaev argues that -- in the end -- the message was directed at her father, the president. "I think this speech was directed and first and foremost at the head of state -- and not, let's say, at the people of Kazakhstan," he says.

If nothing else, Nazarbaeva's speech served notice to political parties and the Kazakh public that she has no intention of a quiet exit from political life -- despite setbacks for her powerful media group and her Asar party.


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