Ex-Kazakh president’s daughter returns to politics with parliament run

The eldest daughter of Kazakhstan’s historic leader Nursultan Nazarbayev returned to politics Wednesday as she prepared to run for parliament just six months after her shock dismissal from a powerful post in the senate.

Dariga Nazarbayeva, 57, was confirmed as a candidate for the ruling Nur Otan party ahead of elections to the lower house on January 10 at a party conference in the capital Nur-Sultan. 

She was one of 126 candidates on the party list published on Nur Otan’s website. 

Nur Otan is expected to win a commanding majority in the vote wherein most of the other parties competing are viewed as proxies. 

Kazakhstan has never held an election deemed free or fair by Western vote monitors.

Nazarbayeva was removed as senate chair in May by order of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, whom Nazarbayev handpicked as his successor last year after nearly three decades as head of state.  

Her dismissal from a post that made her second in line to the presidency according to the constitution fuelled talk of a power struggle and quietened rumours that she might assume the presidency herself some day.

But Tokayev and mentor Nazarbayev appeared together at the party conference on Wednesday where they both delivered speeches. 

Tokayev outlined four priorities in the party’s programme, including social justice, education and regional development.

He also pledged to fight corruption, which is viewed as endemic in the oil-rich country’s government, and increase salaries for doctors.

Delegates voted to support the programme, which Nazarbayev, who is the party’s chairman, praised as “ambitious and at the same time calculated and backed by financial and human resources”. 

Nazarbayeva, who is the oldest of Nazarbayev’s three daughters, attended on Tuesday a meeting of the party’s political council where both men were present. 

It was her first major public appearance since the dismissal.

Tokayev, a former foreign minister, regularly praises his powerful predecessor but has also styled himself as a reformer. 

The republic of 19 million has seen its economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic with GDP falling by three percent January–August according to the World Bank. 

The lower house on Tuesday agreed to allow the government to borrow $1.8 billion at low interest from the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in order to stimulate employment and fund the response to the virus.