Off on a different tangent today – dynastic politics in Kazakhstan. [Nathan Hamm](http://www.registan.net) and [Sean Roberts](http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/) are far better informed on the nitty gritty of Kazakh politics than I am. But there’s one bit that’s just too much fun to leave to the professionals: Dariga.
Dariga Nazarbayeva is the President’s daughter. She’s had a privileged life, and she’s run with it. Degree in history from MGU, PhD in politics, speaks four languages, even moonlights as an opera singer (how well is open to question). Yes, it’s easy to [go overboard](http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1307812,00.html) in singing her praises, and she can only do it because of daddy – but when did you last hear anything about her sisters, who have had lives just as charmed?
Anyway, the past few years Dariga has been managing her rise to power – with a lot more panache than most can muster. You’re never sure quite where she’s going to come from next. She started with the media, when daddy put her in charge of state media company Khabar. She’s no longer officially in charge, but there’s no doubt that a lot of journalists will do what she tells them to.
The reason she’s no longer officially running Khabar is that it conflicted with her move into politics. In December 2003 she founded the ASAR party. Different folks have different views on how much this was her decision, and how much she was playing puppet to her father. She [claims](http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1307812,00.html)
‘I was not forced to found this party….but there comes a moment when just to observe is dull because there is a a self-satisfaction in the pro-presidential camp which can turn to stagnation. The business and political elite is in crisis.
‘My father tried to convince me not to do this….But when I discussed with him my vision of his party, I told him: “I will be dealing with your team.” I want to take away this piece of cake from his party. The new party will involve real people, not state officials.’
But one pundit [said](http://www.iicas.org/2004en/publ_24_02.htm) at the time:
Big politics do not like impromptu actions, and any initiative not coordinated with political partners is punishable. Therefore, if the daughter is in the Asar party, then the father is also present there, but his presence is hidden! Asar is not a whim of the president’s daughter, it is a project of the whole Family, dictated by the need for new methods of retaining power.
Either way, her party was doing really rather well. It’s growing success made it likely that Dariga would eventually become Speaker of parliament – a position open to the head of the largest party, which carries with it the chance to replace the president if he dies. Then daddy decided to close down her political adventure, and arranged for her party to be merged into his own Otan party. Since then, she’s seemed desperate for some other route into the centre of politics.
What’s next? Her current fantasy seems to involve painting herself as a democratic reformer. She’s got the media nous to fake it to the West – look at her spot-on approach to the Borat affair (making a point of getting the joke), or the article “[Deja Vu](http://www.caravan.kz/article/?pid=11&aid=472)” that she wrote in March which combined revelations from the inner sanctum of Kazakh politics with the kind of angry rhetoric you’d expect from [Craig Murray](http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/) or a Western journalist.
And she’s making more substantive moves. And, as [Sean Roberts](http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/2006/10/are-miner-strikes-in-temirtau-merely.html) reports, she is becoming a champion of trades unions, supporting a group of striking miners. Then there’s her [involvement](http://roberts-report.blogspot.com/2006/10/husband-for-monarchy-wife-for.html) in a ‘commission for democratization’. But, again, nobody can tell how much this is Dariga, and how much it’s her father trying to paint a rosy picture of a reforming Kazakhstan.
In the end, everything Dariga does comes down to a question mark about her relationship with her father. He clearly gets his way when he wants to – witness the way he had her political party merged into his this summer. But the rest of the time, she can more or less get away with stirring things up (the ‘Deja Vu’ article is a good example).
One explanation is that Nursultan Nazarbayev wants Dariga to be powerful, but only as one person within a balance of power. This strategy makes sense given the political situation. The President’s power is pretty much unassailable – partly because of the constitution (Nazarbayev was re-elected for six years last december), but mostly because Nazarbayev is one of the smarter leaders in the region, and he’s made the GDP rise by something like 9% a year. If he can keep it that way, his position remains secure and the bloody battles move down a rung.
Dariga, along with her husband, is one of the blocs of power. (see [this analysis](http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/3/DB5B3199-34BD-4D3E-BD3F-8B74FC42000F.html) for a rundown of the rest). If she gets too powerful, she’ll be cut down to size. If she falls, she’ll be picked up. So she does what anybody would in those circumstances: she experiments.
More information: [Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dariga_Nazarbayeva), [Dariga's own site](http://dariga.kz/fam1.php), [Taipei Times](http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2004/02/01/2003097047), and some [semi-official profile](http://www.eamedia.org/orgcom.php).