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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 14:09 GMT 15:09 UK
Kazakh president forms coalition
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Almaty

President Nursultan Nazarbayev
President Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan for nearly 17 years

Two main political parties of Kazakhstan, Central Asia's oil rich and most powerful nation, merged on Tuesday to create a mighty ruling coalition.

The parties belong to President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, seriously strengthening the power of the man who controls Central's Asia's richest country.

It resembled a televised family reunion. "Tell your party members that they've completed their task and that you are now coming back to your father."

There was loud applause as President Nursaltan Nazarbayev announced that his daughter Dariga's party, Asar, was joining his own Otan Party.

Booming economy

This is the way politics work in this nation that sits on one of the world's largest untapped reserves of oil and gas.

Like much else here, the creation of a major political coalition was a family affair.

Mr Nazarbayev has ruled this nation of 15 million for nearly 17 years.

The result has been a booming economy, fuelled by billions of dollars worth of Western investment, and a standard of living much higher than elsewhere in the region.

But in Mr Nazarbayev's Kazakhstan, no election has ever lived up to international standards.

Most of the media is tightly controlled by the state, and in the last six months, two leading opposition politicians have been murdered.

Recently Dariga Nazarbayeva, an ambitious 44-year-old lawyer, was daring enough to criticise one of her father's closest associates about the latest killings.

But creation of this new coalition is likely to mean that there will be no more criticism, and that the future of Kazakhstan and its oil fields is firmly in the hands of a reunited family.


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Profile: Nursultan Nazarbayev
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Country profile: Kazakhstan
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