Former President Nursultan Nazarbaev's eldest daughter was elected speaker of Kazakhstan's upper parliament house a day after her father announced his resignation, thrusting her into a highly prominent role just over a year ahead of the next scheduled presidential election. Darigha Nazarbaeva, 55, was chosen in a unanimous vote by Senate members on 20 March 2019, hours after outgoing upper house chairman Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev was sworn in as interim president of the Central Asian country. Under the constitution, he is to remain in office until an election that is due to be held in April 2020.
Dariga Nazarbayeva is the daughter of Kazakhistan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. She has served in the country's parliament, holds authority within the media, is one of the nation's elites, and is considered a possible heir to the presidency.
Nazarbayeva has not enjoyed a perfect relationship with her father: She has publicly criticized anti-democratic government reforms on several occassions, including in 2006 when she and her husband openly denounced proposed changes to media censorship laws that further restricted freedom of the press. Some analysts believe that the president forced the absorption of Asar into Oran soon afterwards to deprive Nazarbayeva of her growing political power. Around that same time, the government announced plans to take over Nazarbayeva's Khabar media network.
Dariga Nazarbayeva was born May 7, 1963 in Temirtau, Karaganda oblast. Dariga Nazarbayev is the oldest daughter of Nursultan Nazarbayev and Sara Nazarbayeva. In 1980-1983 she studied at Moscow State University, pursuing a degree in history, and transferred to the Kazakh State University in 1983. She continued her studies in history at Kirov Kazakh State University. In 1985-1987 she was an intern researcher at Moscow State University to be further enrolled for a postgraduate program at Moscow State University. She completed her doctorate degree in political sciences and history. Nazarbayeva led Khabar state-run news agency for an extended period of time.
From 1992 to 1994 she was Vice President of Bobek Children's Charity Fund. From 1994 to 1995 she was Vice President of "TV and Radio of Kazakhstan" Republican Corporation, Director of Khabar National TV and News Agency. From 1995 to 1998 she was Director General of Khabar Agency Republican State Enterprise of the Kazakhstan Government. From 1998 to 2001 she was President of CJSC Khabar Agency.
A 2001 poll conducted in Kazakhstan revealed that the majority of media experts and jounrnalists believed that the country's media was effectively state-controlled though leading figures including Nazarbayeva. At the time, most print media sources relied on the government for at least some funding. Kazakhstan also has strict libel laws that encourage self-censorship among jounrnalists when reporting on politics.
Since 2001 she was organizer and chairperson of Eurasian Media Forum Organizing Committee. From 2001 to 2004 she was Chairperson of the Board of Directors at CJSC Khabar Agency. Nazarbayeva founded and headed the pro-president Asar party in 2004. Asar won a large number of seats in the 2004 elections along with the president's Oran party. Critics pointed out that the media gave these two parties disproportionately large coverage while virtually ignoring opposition candidates. From 2004 to 2007 she was Deputy of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan of the 3rd convocation, Head of Aimak Deputy Group. In 2007 she was appointed Director of the Public Foundation "The Fund of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan - the Leader of the Nation".
Rakhat Aliyev was a trained surgeon when he married Dariga Nazarbayeva in 1984. It was seen as a love affair within Kazakhstan's political elite (Aliyev's father was the former Health Minister). Rakhat Aliyev was a major insider in Kazakhstan politics for years, playing many roles, including chief of Kazakhstan’s tax police, deputy chief of the state intelligence service, vice foreign minister and ambassador. At the same time, he indirectly owned or controlled companies in the media, banking and agriculture industries. In 2001 Aliyev was sent to "honorable exile" in Vienna for the first time after allegedly plotting to seize power.
In July 2005, Nazarbayeva warned of the possibility that Kazakhstan could face a so-called "colored revolution," referring to recent political upheavals in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. She claimed that outside forces could exploit weaknesses within the country to achieve what she called "the export of democracy." In her assessment, "Kazakhstan can become the target of outside democratic pressure." Nazarbayeva described what she called "a new technology of installing controllable governments on territories of strategic interests. Today there is no country that does not face a threat of forceful democratization from the outside."
By 2006 President Nazarbayev was engaged in an open, political dispute with his daughter Dariga, whom he feared as a competitor. Nazarbayeva, considered by some as a contender to succeed her father, had led the pro-presidential Asar party on a platform of moderate political liberalization, within an overall context of loyalty to the president.
Following Aliyev and Nazarbayeva's intense criticism of the government in the wake of the February 2006 murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, Aliyev was stripped of his post as Deputy Foreign Minister and sent back to Vienna, and Nazarbayeva's Asar party was folded into Otan.
The body of leading opposition figure Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly, along with those of two associates, was found in an Almaty field on 13 February 2006. All three men had been shot to death and appear to have been murdered. The murder of Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly caused political shockwaves in Kazakhstan. Allegations by the opposition of First Family involvement and charges of high-level cover-up prompted first daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva to go on the offensive by accusing former KNB head Dutbayev of involvement and calling for Senate Speaker Nurtay Abykayev's resignation. Nazarbayeva's husband, First Deputy Foreign Minister Rakhat Aliyev, had been the focus of much public speculation.
Most political leaders from President Nazarbayev on down were remaining silent as the investigation progressed. In a move that surprised observers of the Kazakhstani political scene, however, first daughter, Asar party leader, and Mazhilis member Dariga Nazarbayeva has come out swinging in the press to defend her husband Rakhat Aliyev. In a 10 March 2006 article in the "Karavan" newspaper (controlled by Aliyev), Dariga wrote that "something is wrong in our country" when a person can be killed by the security forces in broad daylight. She also cast doubt on the official conclusion that former Nazarbayev insider turned oppositionist Nurkadilov had committed suicide, thereby implicitly criticizing her father.
Dariga claimed that former KNB head Dutbayev had immediately told President Nazarbayev that either Rakhat Aliyev, Timur Kulibayev, or presidential nephew Kairat Satybaldiy were behind Sarsenbaiuly's murder. She alleged that Dutbayev was in league with the opposition to destabilize the political situation by framing Nazarbayev's relatives. Dariga also called on Abykayev to resign.
She compared recent events to the situation in November 2001 (when the President forced the departure of her husband for Vienna after fierce political infighting), claiming this was a "second attempt to stop the development of society and to stop political reforms."
The upheaval caused by Sarsenbaiuly's murder pushed elite political infighting into the bright light of day. The opposition described Dariga Nazarbayeva as 'unnerved' at the moment as the result of the public scrutiny and accusations. Her unprecedented press statements indicated a sense of desperation, raising the question of whether President Nazarbayev was for the time being not taking sides among the various camps.
On 04 July 2006, President Nazarbayev's Otan party held its 9th Congress and voted to merge with Dariga Nazerbayeva's pro-presidential party Asar. The merger occurred fairly suddenly, following a series of statements by Dariga that criticized the president's inner circle regarding the Sarsenbaiuly murder. Dariga lost her primary vehicle for establishing an independent support base.
The united party kept the name Otan; President Nazarbayev remains the party head, and Bakhytzhan Zhumagulov remained the acting Otan chairman. Dariga Nazarbayeva and Alexander Pavlov were named deputy chairmen. Many analysts saw the two parties' unification as a hostile takeover of Asar by Otan, effectively marking the end of Nazarbayeva's independent political activities. According to such theorists, the merger was the result of serious discord between the president and his daughter.
Nazarbayeva used her remarks to explain the reasons behind the merger. She characterized the bulk of pro-presidential forces as moderate conservatives that tended to trust existing patterns of power and quickly forgave any government wrong-doing. She insisted that with such a mentality, nothing would change. She made clear her distrust of radical changes, but emphasized that government reform was necessary to keep the country moving forward. She highlighted Asar's traditions of liberalism and local self-government in an attempt to draw a clear distinction between the united Otan party and the former Communist Party of Soviet times.
By January 2007 Dariga Nazarbayeva's husband Rakhat Aliyev, appeared to have come out on the losing end of a reshuffle. While he had some allies in key positions, namely Deputy Prime Minister Musin and Security Council chairman Imashev, he had also seen rivals such as Tazhin and Tokayev retain positions of great influence. Aliyev, who had been First Deputy Foreign Minister since 2005, was rumored to be on his way back to "honorable exile" in Vienna where Nazarbayev sent him in 2002 following accusations that Aliyev was plotting to seize power.
In 2007 the original shareholders of Nurbank decided to pursue new opportunities and sold the majority stake to Dariga Nazarbayeva jointly with Mr. Nurali Aliyev, who as of 1 of June 2009 held 56.38% of common shares (official disclosure of ownership). Nurali Aliyev was appointed the First Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Kazakhstan-based commercial Nurbank JSC on 27 February 2007. The 22-year-old Nurali is a son of Presidential daughter and Mazhilis deputy Dariga Nazarbayeva and Kazakhstani Ambassador to Austria and former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Rakhat Aliyev. The Ministry of Interior announced on 23 May 2007 that a criminal case has been opened against Aliyev and two associates for the alleged kidnapping of two Nurbank officials in mid-January. Both men remain missing.
Aliyev had told his father-in-law that he planned to run for president in 2012, and he said a legal assault against him was launched in response. The Kazakh Constitution, which would have required Nazarbayev, 66, to step down in 2012, was amended in May 2007 to allow him to seek reelection without limit. The morning after Nazarbayev signed the constitutional amendments that gave him unbounded power, law enforcers brought kidnapping charges against Aliyev. "The head of state," said a Ministry of the Interior spokesman, "personally instructed" officials to conduct the investigation.
First daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva told Kazakhstan Today on 22 May 2007 that she had signed the proposal to lift constitutional term limits on Nazarbayev because "his historic mission is far from being accomplished," and "strong presidential power is the chief guarantee of stability and democratic development."
In a bizarre turn of events, in May 2007 presidential son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev appeared to have finally exhausted President Nazarbayev's patience with a series of rash public statements accusing Kazakhstani officials of criminal activity and criticizing the recent package of constitutional amendments. President Nazarbayev's public rebuke of Aliyev eliminated for the foreseeable future the unseemly maneuvering among the family and other elites to position themselves for a succession struggle.
Nazarbayeva divorced Rakhat Aliyev in 2007 following a major scandal in which he was exposed for illegally spying on other senior government officials and was dismissed from his post as punishment. Once considered a potential heir to the presidency, Aliyev fled Kazakhstan to escape prosecution.
In a 20 June 2007 interview to Kazakhstan Today news agency, she said " being a member of the family of the President of Kazakhstan dooms them to steadfast and not always benevolent attention, which practically excludes an opportunity for private life. Nevertheless I did, I do and I will be doing everything to save my family from biased and hostile glance. There are many rumors. I can confirm only one - about divorce. This has been a hard experience for my family. I can only add that this was achieved through suffering and a thought-out choice."
Once the golden girl for the future leadership, Dariga was sidelined politically because of her (former) marriage to Rakhat Aliyev, who was now Nazarbayev's mortal enemy-supremo. Besides that, she tumbled out of the Forbes' list of international billionaires for 2009. In the medieval-khan, blood-feud-to-the-death battle between Nazarbayev and Aliyev, Nazarbayev decreed that Dariga had to divorce Rakhat Aliyev, even though she was said to have more than a soft spot for her former husband, and, some say, might even bolt to the other side -- except that Nazarbayev has taken up her first son, his namesake, as a new favorite.
Word on the street was that Nazarbayev was now not averse to letting it be known that Dariga was "only" his step-daughter, being the off-spring of his official wife from a previous liaison. The real facts are hard to determine because both sides -- Nazarbayev and Aliyev, with Dariga caught in the middle -- engaged international public relations firms to do battle against each other. And yet Dariga is not without her friends.
Dr. (sic) Dariga Nazarbayeva organized (or at least it was organized in her name), the Eighth Eurasian Media Forum, 23-24 April 2009, in Almaty, co-sponsored by CNN and "The International Herald Tribune," with support from EuroNews and a large number of other international media, media-related, and other businesses.
In January 2012 she became a member of the country’s Majilis (lower chamber) and headed the Majilis Culture Development Committee. April 3, 2014 she was voted to be the Vice Speaker of the Majilis and head of the Nur Otan fraction.
On 24 February 2015 ex-husband Rakhat Aliyev was found dead, hanging from a coat hook in the bathroom of his solitary prison cell in Vienna, where he was awaiting trial in the kidnapping and murder of two Kazakh officials of Nurbank. In 2008, a Kazakh court charged him with killing opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly in 2006. Aliyev had been scheduled to testify in a trial against two former cellmates whom he had accused of threatening to kill him and make it look like a suicide unless he paid them.
Documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, show that Nurali Aliyev, the president’s grandson and Dariga Nazarbayeva’s son, had no second thoughts or conscience when deciding where to keep his money or register his luxury possessions.
Dariga Nazarbayev, President Nazarbayev’s daughter, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan on 11 September 2015. Kazakh political analyst Yerlan Karin said that Nazarbayeva's appointment would give a momentum to social issues in the country. "I think it is an interesting and expected appointment. It was expected, because Dariga Nazarbayeva has been an active politician. As a lawmaker (...), she raised pressing issues in social development and pointed out issues in social spheres such as education, social protection and others. She also offered certain solutions. Nazarbayeva has proved herself to be an expert in solving complex social problems. So, from this standpoint, her appointment was expected," Karin explained.
By Presidential Decree Dariga Nazarbayeva was appointed as Deputy of the Senate of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan on 13 September 2016. She served as Chairman of the Committee on International Relations, Defense and Security of the Senate of Parliament.
Dariga Nazarbayeva was elected as the Speaker of the Senate of the Republic of Kazakhstan on 20 March 2019. Senator Byrganym Aitimova said all MPs welcome the election of Dariga Nazarbayev as the Chairperson of the upper chamber of the Kazakh Senate. Aitimova said she is confident that Dariga Nazarbayev being the true patriot of her country will use her extensive knowledge for the benefit of the people and Kazakhstan's development.
Aside from political work, Nazarbayeva was actively involved in opera. She gave a number of concerts, one of which took place at Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris. One of its goals is to make the music art accessible to all segments of the population. The tickets are free of charge. The teachers, doctors, honored pensioners and people with disabilities are among the invited guests.
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