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Kazakhstan: President Nazarbaev Dismisses Another Son-In-Law

Timur Kulibaev in a 2003 photo (ITAR-TASS) August 29, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has made a number of senior-level personnel changes this week.

Kazakhstan now has a new deputy prime minister, Umirzak Shukeyev, and a new energy minister, Sauat Mynbaev, who was previously the head of the powerful Samruk holding company.

But the biggest news was Nazarbaev's unexplained decision to relieve one of his sons-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, of his seat on the board of Samruk, which manages state assets in the energy and industrial sectors.

No reason has been given for Nazarbaev's decision to dismiss Kulibaev. But the move has prompted reactions from many Kazakh political figures.

Nazarbaev "wants to position a just president who can even sack his own son-in-law if necessary."

Kulibaev is the second of Nazarbaev's sons-in-law to lose his state position since May.

The president's eldest daughter, Darigha, divorced businessman Rakhat Aliev in May after he was charged with kidnapping and financial wrongdoing. Before the publication of those charges, Aliev had been recalled as Kazakhstan's ambassador to Austria, and responded with a quick announcement of his intention to run for the Kazakh presidency in 2013.

An Austrian court has rejected Kazakhstan's request for Aliev's extradition, but Kazakh authorities are expected to renew that appeal.

Away From The Public Eye

Kulibaev is married to Nazarbaev's second daughter, Dinara. He is not reported to be facing any charges and -- unlike Rakhat Aliev -- has kept a low profile as he ascended the political ladder in Kazakhstan.

Kulibaev was appointed deputy chairman of Samruk shortly after the company's launch in early 2006.

Serikbolsyn Abdildin, the chairman of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and a long-time presidential opponent, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that he thinks Kulibaev is being sacrificed for the sake of Nazarbaev's image.

Nazarbaev "wants to position himself as a just person maintaining a just direction, showing himself as a just president who can even sack his own son-in-law if necessary," Abdildin said. "I don't think there have been any changes that could bring anything good to either the state or the people."

Amirzhan Kosanov, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, also saw the decision to dismiss Kulibaev as somehow pursuant to Nazarbaev's own interests. But he added that it might prove to have been in Kulibaev's best interests, as well.

"Currently the scandal around Nazarbaev's former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliev, is becoming very high-profile in the country and elsewhere. With that in mind, Nazarbaev is probably trying to do everything possible to keep his second son-in-law in the shadows," Kosanov said.

No Political Threat

Andrei Chebotarev, an Almaty-based independent political observer, said that Kulibaev seems to have no political ambitions that Nazarbaev might regard as a threat to his own hold on power -- unlike Kulibaev's former brother-in-law, Rakhat Aliev.

Kulibaev is instead "a depoliticized individual [who] just takes part in managing some sectors of Kazakhstan's economy. But generally he keeps himself loyal to the president. There are no reasons for Nazarbaev to expect from Kulibaev the same demarche that was performed by Rakhat Aliev, I believe," Chebotarev said.

That perceived contrast with Aliev is likely to translate into a future state post for Kulibaev to keep his family financially secure -- but also to keep him out of the public eye. Kulibaev has more than 10 years of experience working in Kazakhstan's banking and oil and gas sectors.

The youngest of Nazarbaev's three daughters is Aliya. Her husband, Daniyar Khasenov, is currently head of the state railroad company, Temir Joly.

(RFE/RL Kazakh Service Director Merhat Sharipzhan contributed to this report)

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