Kazakstan: Young Turks Strike

Ambitious young government technocrats pressured President Nazarbaev into dismissing his powerful son-in-law from an important ministerial post.

Kazakstan: Young Turks Strike

Ambitious young government technocrats pressured President Nazarbaev into dismissing his powerful son-in-law from an important ministerial post.

Influential political figures within the Kazak government were behind President Nursultan Nazarbaev's decision to force his powerful son-in-law, Rakhat Aleiv, from a key position in the security ministry over a week ago, according to IWPR sources.

Aliev, who served as a deputy chairman of the National Security Committee, NSC, was seen as the president's heir apparent.

Although Aliev resigned from his post on Novermber 15, there's little doubt that Nazarbaev had compelled him to go, and then relegated his son-in-law to a more junior position as a deputy presidential security chief - which severely limited his influence.

Since 1991, Aliev had steadily accumulated power and influence, rising from a medical researcher to one of the most powerful men in the country. At the time of his sacking, he effectively controlled the security ministry, managed the tax police and customs, owned substantial media groups and held a leading role in several corporations.

Most analysts assumed that Nazarbaev would eventually hand over to Aliev to ensure that the family continued to rule the country.

During the past month, however, a series of media scandals implicating Aliev and claims that he had used the NSC to attack his rivals undermined the president's son-in-law.

In one media scandal, the governor of the Pavlodar region, Galymjan Jakianov, accused Aliev of pursuing a libellous campaign against him via KTK television and Caravan newspaper - all part of Aliev's media empire. Jakianov claimed the attacks came after he criticised local election practices as undemocratic, and warned of Aliev's monopoly on the country's mass media.

The most notable example of NSC targeting Aliev's rivals occurred at the beginning of October when Mukhatar Ablyazov, ex-minister of Energy, Industry and Trade, and currently chairman of the board of directors of Kazakstan Airlines, was arrested at Almaty airport. The detention of Ablyazov - who was accused of serious crimes, including forgery - came after he commented that the NSC had harassed Jakianov over the past two years. The charges against Ablyazov were dropped after he appealed to the president.

The aforementioned cases have provoked growing unease amongst powerful government politicians who in the last couple of months have let Nazarbaev know of their hostility towards Aliev, according to IWPR sources.

Jakianov and Ablyazov form part of a group of young, educated government technocrats. Some already owned businesses before their promotion to the administration. Others exploited their status in the regime to acquire commercial enterprises. These so-called "Young Turks" felt Aliev was using his political power, which stemmed from his association with Nazarbaev, to interfere with their economic interests.

Another of the technocrats' fears was that Aliev might one day succeed Nazarbaev. With rumours that the president may not complete his term, which ends in four years' time, they were keen to get the security chief out of the way and prepare the ground for their own candidates.

Nazarbaev seems to have taken their concerns over Aliev seriously, as he relies very heavily on them to run the country. Significantly, they helped him to show potential Western investors that Kazakstan was prepared to implement market reforms.

But after orchestrating the fall of Aliev, it seems that the technocrats overstretched themselves. They set up a new political movement, called the Democratic Choice of Kazakstan, in a bid to have a political platform to better represent themselves. This appears to have been too much for Nazarbaev. Some of them, including Jakianov, lost their jobs in the administration.

Observers believe the dismissal of the president's son-in-law and the subsequent government tensions highlight the emergence of cracks in the regime. By alienating the political elite, Nazarbaev's ability to run the country as his personal fiefdom could be considerably undermined.

Andrei Chebotariov is a regular IWPR contributor

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