Kazakh Leader Names Daughter to Cabinet With Succession in Focus

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev named his eldest daughter Dariga deputy prime minister as officials jostle to position themselves for a potential battle to succeed the longest serving ex-Soviet leader.

Nazarbayev signed the decree Friday, his press service said on its website. Dariga Nazarbayeva, 52, is ascending as part of a political comeback that included being named deputy speaker of the Kazakh parliament’s lower house last year.

The former Soviet Union’s second-biggest energy producer is grappling with the effects of a currency collapse and lower energy prices. Nazarbayev, 75, has ruled the country for more than a quarter century and extended his rule by winning a fifth term in an April snap election. After the vote, he said that there would “definitely” be a transition of power and set out to devolve more power to the government and to parliament.

“I have a feeling that this move is designed to give Dariga Nazarbayeva more experience in statecraft,” said Dosym Satpayev, director of the Almaty-based Risk Assessment Group. She may become prime minister one day, considering Nazarbayev’s intention to give the premier greater authority, he said.

The tenge slid to record-low 268 per dollar on Friday and closed 4.5 percent lower at 263.07. Kazakhstan abandoned its currency peg in August to help its companies compete after China devalued its yuan and Russia’s ruble sank in lockstep with oil prices. As a result, the tenge has lost more than 28 percent against the dollar in the past month, more than any other currency in the world.

Daughter’s Comeback

Nazarbayev this year set up a modernization commission and appointed Prime Minister Karim Massimov as its head, with Nazarbayeva in charge of a working group for improving state governance.

Nazarbayeva lost her position as deputy chairman of her father’s Nur Otan party in 2007 after her former husband Rakhat Aliyev was charged with organizing the kidnapping of two bank executives. Aliyev was found dead in an Austrian cell in February. She returned to parliament in 2012 and served as director of the Foundation of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a non-profit organization which says it promotes social, cultural and educational causes.

Nazarbayev during a Friday celebration for the Kazakh Khanate’s 550th anniversary said that “today and forever our Kazakhstan is the country of the great transformed steppe.” The statement echoed his comments a week before a 19 percent tenge devaluation in February 2014, when he said that the country must consider changing its name to Kazakh Yeli, or Kazakh Nation.