Prague, 29 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakhstan's Asar party is gaining momentum ahead of October elections to the Mazhlis, or lower house of parliament. Asar -- which means "all together" or "mutal help" in Kazakh -- is led by Darigha Nazarbaeva, the eldest daughter of the country's president, Nursultan Nazarbaev.
Seemingly suffering no lack of confidence, Nazarbaeva is predicting her fledgling party will take half those seats.
Since September, the one-time social movement has undergone a whirlwind transformation, registering as a political party and setting its sights firmly on the October poll and the 77 available seats.
Seemingly suffering no lack of confidence, Nazarbaeva is predicting her fledgling party will take half those seats. In fact, Asar -- which already claims 77,000 members, making it the country's second-largest party -- says it already has 10 deputies in the parliament's upper and lower houses.
Nazarbaeva says these are mainly former independents converted by Asar's political message of using dialogue and tolerance to promote social welfare and public services like health care. Rashid Akhmetov, who heads the parliament's Asar faction, said: "Deputies that share the goals and obligations of Asar have joined it. They want to move in the direction of [helping] our people's welfare, in the direction of undertaking concrete tasks, concrete matters for the benefit of every person."
Nazarbaeva says Asar has already entered the political fray, participating in ongoing debates over changes to Kazakh media and election laws. She says Asar supports the notion of raising the percentage of party-list seats from 10 percent to 50 percent. She also hinted Asar may join forces with other pro-presidential parties. "I think it's not a bad idea to have 50 percent [of seats in parliament awarded] by party lists," she said. "Today, there are nine political parties in Kazakhstan and day after day their role and influence is increasing. If we have a political system in Kazakhstan similar to the Western one, where a political party's meaning and its role is significant, that would be great. I mean, [it would be great to have a situation where] the political parties are able to influence the political situation in the country. I am sure we can do it, but to do it, we have to consolidate, to have a bloc."
Nazarbaeva -- who has indicated she does not intend to run in the October elections -- says talks are already under way between Asar and members of the pro-presidential Fatherland, Civic, and Agrarian parties.
Zauresh Batalova is a deputy in the parliament's upper house and a member of the now-defunct Democratic Choice Movement of Kazakhstan, which failed to meet reregistration requirements by coming up short of the 50,000 members now mandated by law. Surprisingly, Batalova says she supports Asar's success, as it draws new people into Kazakh politics. "Personally, I'm sincerely glad to learn that an Asar party faction has appeared in the parliament," she told RFE/RL. "Professional lawyers and economists -- who had never been involved in politics before -- have joined Asar. And its faction in the parliament is able to implement all the ideas and plans of this party in parliament."
Others are more skeptical of Asar's rising political star. Serikbai Alibaev, of the Aul Party, says Asar was created by presidential whim and could disappear just as easily. "Such a faction does not have a future. The Asar party itself has been created in the shadows, using the authority of President Nazarbaev. That is why it was created. In the same way this party can be dissolved," Alibaev said.
Asar's first congress as an officially registered party is scheduled to be held on 31 January.
(Merhat Sharipzhan of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service contributed to this report.)