ASTANA: Kazakhstan’s new president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev handed the key post of senate speaker on Wednesday to a daughter of his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, who unexpectedly resigned a day earlier after three decades in power.
Nazarbayev, 78, stepped down late on Tuesday in what appeared to be the first step in a choreographed political transition that will see him retain considerable sway over the Central Asian nation of 18 million people.
His daughter Dariga’s promotion — which was ex-speaker Tokayev’s first major move after being inaugurated — raises her profile as a potential successor. Under Kazakhstan’s constitution, the senate speaker assumes presidential powers in the event of the president’s resignation or death.
Tokayev, a 65-year-old career diplomat fluent in Russian, English and Chinese, will serve for the rest of the presidential term ending in April 2020. He promised on Wednesday to continue Nazarbayev’s policies.
“(Nazarbayev’s) opinion will have special, one might say priority, importance in developing and making strategic decisions,” Tokayev said in an inauguration speech.
It remains unclear whether the Moscow-educated former prime minister will run for a full term as president next year. Nazarbayev praised him on Tuesday as “a man who can be trusted to lead Kazakhstan”.
Nazarbayev, who has no obvious long-term successor, had run the vast oil and gas-rich country since 1989 when it was a Soviet republic, routinely winning elections with more than 90 per cent of the vote.
But country-watchers have considered his eldest daughter Dariga a succession candidate since she founded her own party in the 2000s —which later merged with Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan. Nazarbayeva, a 55-year-old mother of three, has in the past led Kazakhstan’s main television station and served as a deputy prime minister, while also devoting time to her passion for opera — which she has performed publicly.
Another extended family member, Nazarbayev’s nephew Samat Abish, is also regarded as a candidate after his meteoric rise through the ranks of state security, where he has held the No 2 post since 2015. Abish, however, keeps a low public profile.
The head of state security, Karim Masimov, although not a family member, has also become very close to Nazarbayev, to whom he frequently referred as “my president”, having served as his chief of staff and twice as prime minister. The current PM, Askar Mamin, was Masimov’s classmate in the 1970s. — Reuters