On 11 September 2015 Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed his eldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva deputy prime minister in charge of social policy.
Dariga has been a political figure since the early 2000s. In 2014 she was elected a member of parliament where she became deputy chairman of the legislature and the leader of Nur Otan’s, the main pro-presidential political party’s faction.
Several observers and political commentators in Kazakhstan and internationally interpreted Dariga’s September 2015 appointment as an indication that Nazarbayev had made his long awaited decision to settle the political legacy and had decided to promote Dariga as his successor.
However, another potential explanation of her appointment appears to be, at least, equally plausible. Nazarbayev seems to have pursued the following objectives when appointing Dariga to the executive government:
Nazarbayev, a reputed master in the game of checks and balances, wants to outbalance the influence of Karim Massimov, the prime minister and an increasingly powerful figure;
Dariga’s appointment will enable her to significantly enhance her own network of officials on whom she could rely in the post-Nursultan Nazarbayev era – this is her big chance ‘to win friends and influence people’, to quote Dale Carnegie;
Social policy is arguably one of the most important areas for Nazarbayev in the light of the low oil prices and depreciated tenge, the country’s currency. Nazarbayev may need someone whom he could trust to secure social stability.
Reports depicting Dariga as Nursultan Nazarbayev’s successor may turn out to be premature. The president is an experienced tactician and, whatever his succession plans are, he will stay in control for as long as he can and will adjust them, depending on the economic conditions and the highly unpredictable general situation in the Middle East.
by Alexey Yugai, Associate Director