Kazakh president says his children won’t succeed him

By bne IntelliNews November 25, 2016

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 76, will not grant his children power to succeed him, the long-time strongman told Bloomberg in an interview held on November 22.

The succession question has gained a sharper focus following the death in September of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, 78, who, like Nazarabayev, had ruled since 1989. Political risks stemming from the lack of a clear succession plan have constrained Kazakhstan’s debt ratings for S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings adding to the country’s tensions.

Nazarbayev's comments come as the former Soviet Union’s longest-serving ruler delays democratic reforms amid the hydrocarbon-reliant country’s worst economic downturn in nearly two decades. Following the plunge in oil prices the Kazakh economic growth eased sharply to 1.2% in 2015 from 4.3% in 2014. The government expects the slowdown to reach 0.5% this year. International observers such as the World Bank see growth slowing down to 0.2% in 2016.

At the same time, Nazarbayev's comments appear to rule out his elder daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, as a potential successor. Dafiga's appointment to the Senate in September was widely seen as a move to put her in line for presidency. Under the Kazakh constitution, the Senate’s chairman takes over the president’s responsibilities if the president dies or leaves office early.

“I’m not envisaging succession for my children, I don’t think that’s a question for us,” Nazabayev said. “Our transfer of power is spelled out by the constitution”.

Nazarbayev’s daughter Dinara shares control over the country’s second-largest bank by assets, Halyk Savings Bank, with her husband Timur Kulibayev, who has also been seen as a potential presidential successor. The president’s youngest daughter, Aliya, heads the Elitstroy construction company.

A day after Nazarbayev’s interview with Bloomberg, the Kazakh parliament passed a declaration to rename the country’s capital, Astana, after Nazarbayev. The development followed an announcement of a new banknote for the KZT10,000 bill featuring for the first time Nazarbayev’s portrait. The two developments mark the latest incarnation’s of the Kazakh leader’s personality cult.

In 2010, the Kazakh parliament passed a law giving him the official title of the Leader of the Nation. Kazakhstan has erected a number of monuments featuring the Kazakh autocrat and named after him a prestigious school network and a university.

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