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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 May 2007, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Feud splits Kazakh ruling family
By Natalia Antelava
BBC Central Asia correspondent

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during a meeting in Astana  (file picture)
Kazakhstan's energy resources are attracting keen interest
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has fired his son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev from the Foreign Service in what appears to be a growing power struggle.

Earlier, Mr Aliyev accused the leader of trying to silence him after he said he planned to run for the presidency.

What started as a family disagreement is now a major political scandal.

Earlier this week, President Nazarbayev ordered a criminal investigation into allegations his son-in-law was behind the kidnapping of two senior bankers.

Then, on Friday, the government shut down a television station and a newspaper belonging to Mr Aliyev and his wife, the president's daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva.

And on Saturday, Mr Aliyev lost his job as an ambassador of Kazakhstan to Austria.

In a statement from Vienna, Mr Aliyev accused his father-in-law of trying to silence him because of his ambition to run for the presidency.

The country, he said, was slipping back into its totalitarian, Soviet past.

Weak opposition

But few in Kazakhstan think that this power struggle has anything to do with democratic values - rather its money and power.

Mr Aliyev is an extremely controversial figure: together with his wife, he has wide-ranging business and political interests and a strong following among some of the country's wealthy elite.

But President Nazarbayev, who has been in office for 17 years, is not about to give up power, even to his family members.

In fact, only last week, Mr Nazarbayev strengthened his rule by changing the law to allow him to run for the presidency as many times as he likes.

In Kazakhstan, where the media is tightly controlled by the state, and where the opposition is weak, the political process has always been a family affair.

But this could split the family in two, which may be just enough to destroy the fragile political structure of a country that is an increasingly important oil producer.


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