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Kazakhstan: Darigha Nazarbaeva Eyes Parliament, Nursultan Nazarbaev The Presidency

Prague, 31 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Darigha Nazarbaeva's new political entity, Asar, held its first congress as an officially registered party today. But that news was somewhat overshadowed by the announcement by an aide to her father, Kazakhstan's current president, that Nursultan Nazarbaev will run for re-election in 2006.

Nazarbaeva's Asar party was holding its first party congress since it registration last month. Nazarbaeva, who heads the state news agency, said earlier this week that 10 members of parliament had already joined Asar and she said the party's membership has risen even from the remarkable 77,000 it had when the Justice Ministry registered the party last month.

"In the last two months, some 160,000 people have joined the party," she said. That would make Asar the second-largest party in Kazakhstan behind the pro-presidential Otan party. Nazarbaeva repeated her party aims to take half the seats available in the October election, though she said she herself has no plans at the moment to run for a seat.

However, the Asar party founding congress quickly became a secondary story today when an aide to the Kazakh president, Yermukhamet Yertysbaev, announced that Nursultan Nazarbaev would seek re-election in the 2006 presidential race.

Darigha Nazarbaeva was seemingly aware of this impending announcement and mentioned it at the Asar congress, speaking of her father in glowing terms, while denying at the same time that Kazakhstan was following a dynastic model, such as that seen recently in Azerbaijan. "Every country has its own path. Azerbaijan has its [path], Georgia has its [path], but in Kazakhstan we have a different situation," she said. "We have a strong, healthy, handsome, and intelligent president. All our neighbors are envious of us. They say, 'If only we had such a president.' What more can one say?"

Darigha may know even more than presidential aide Yertysbaev made public today. Despite her comments that Kazakhstan has its own path and her hint the country would not follow the Azerbaijani model, her comments on what happens after her father leaves office could be interpreted as meaning there would be no truly democratic elections to replace the current Kazakh president.

"What will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow I do not know," she said. "But in the next presidential election I am confident.... [And] his prestige is so great that in 10 years he himself will decide who will be his successor."

Under the constitution adopted through a national referendum in 1995, a president may serve no more than two terms in office. However, parliament removed the term limit in 1998 just before announcing early elections for the presidency.

(RFE/RL's Smagoul Yelubaev contributed to this report.)

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