Monday, August 07, 2006

Have Central Asian watchers been watching the wrong daughter politician?

For some time now, western journalists and political commentators have made much of Dariga Nazarbayeva's political emergence. Many of them have been suggesting with over-simplification that Dariga has been cultivated as the successor to her father. While such a scenario is not out of the realm of possibility, it does not look as likely today as it did perhaps a year ago. Once again, Dariga and her husband, Rakhat Aliyev seem to be "on the outs" in Kazakhstan's inner circle. In the meantime, much less has been written in the west about the political aspirations of Islam Karimov's daughter Gulnara. Gulnara is well known for her very public divorce and custody battle in New Jersey, and her business empire has also drawn attention. Her political aspirations, however, have not received much attention Nonetheless, there were rumors last month that she was in line to become the new Prime Minister--a move that, as the rumors suggest, did not receive the good graces of other elites around the president. Still, she is certainly one of the major players in Uzbekistan today, and she seems intent upon improving her image., for example, reports that Gulnara (using the stage name "Googoosha" that was apparently an affectionate name given her by her father when she was young) is presently promoting her image through music, an approach also used formerly by Dariga Nazarbayeva. According to, Googoosha already has one music video out that is playing constantly on Uzbekistan's homegrown version of MTV -Markaz-TV.

Despite Gulnara's wealth, her emerging musical career, and her family pedigree, it is questionable whether she could really make a play to succeed her father as president in the patriarchial environment of Uzbekistan. Nonetheless, she is somebody to watch in the often opaque but intense political struggles within Uzbekistan's elite. If Dariga's political position in Kazakhstan has fallen, Gulnara's still seems to be on the rise in Uzbekistan.


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