Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Grandson Assumes Astana Power Post

Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev Grandson Assumes Astana Power Post

The grandson of President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been parachuted into a top political job in Astana, sparking speculation in Kazakhstan that the aging president may be grooming him as his successor.

Nurali Aliyev, the millionaire eldest son of the president’s daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva and her disgraced ex-husband Rakhat Aliyev, has been appointed deputy mayor of the capital of Kazakhstan, the Astana administration’s website has announced.

This is the first foray into politics by Aliyev, hitherto a prominent banker who has occupied top jobs in Kazakhstan’s financial system, including as chairman of the boards of Nurbank and the Development Bank of Kazakhstan. Aliyev – who has an estimated fortune of $200 million, according to Forbes Kazakhstan’s rich list – is currently chairman of the board of the Transtelekom telecommunications company.

Aliyev is Nazarbayev’s eldest grandson and is rumored to be his favorite grandchild (though the president does not believe in nepotism, which he railed against angrily earlier this year).

Aliyev’s mother Dariga Nazarbayeva, an MP and deputy speaker of parliament’s lower house, is a powerful political player who is herself sometimes tipped as possible presidential material.

She divorced his father, Rakhat Aliyev, in 2007, when he suffered a spectacular fall from grace in Kazakhstan. Aliyev Sr. is now under arrest in Austria on murder charges, suspected of killing two bankers in Kazakhstan in 2007 and due to be questioned over the murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev in 2005.

Aliyev Jr. has long been considered a dark horse candidate to succeed Nazarbayev. His appointment to this senior position will give him a chance to acquire some political experience under the tutelage of Mayor Adilbek Dzhaksybekov, a trusted Nazarbayev lieutenant.

There is one temporary barrier to any political ambitions Aliyev may harbor: He will turn 30 on January 1, which makes him 10 years too young to meet the constitutional requirement that the president must be at least 40.

Speculation over Nazarbayev’s successor has been raging for years in Kazakhstan. The 74-year-old president (who has the right to serve an unlimited number of terms of office) has pledged to see out his current term, which ends in December 2016, but has not specified his further plans.

Keeping the presidency in the Nazarbayev family by anointing a relative as successor has the advantage of ensuring the family’s security after the patriarch leaves office. But it may ruffle feathers among some members of Kazakhstan’s elite groups, who are greedily eyeing a share of the post-Nazarbayev political spoils.