Kazakhstan: Rumor Mill in Overdrive About President’s Health
Kazakhstan is rife with rumors about Nursultan Nazarbayev’s health, following a report that the president is in a German hospital.Nazarbayev's number-one foe, his former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, immediately jumped into the fray, publishing news on his blog that the 71-year-old president had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Aliyev – who fell out with his former father-in-law in 2007 and jumps at any opportunity to pour vitriol on him – didn't explain why, if he's so well-informed, he only published this news after reports of Nazarbayev’s hospitalization surfaced on July 19 in the German tabloid Bild, rather than before. A Bloomberg report on July 20 quoted Bild as reporting that Nazarbayev had undergone prostate surgery and would be heading back to Astana that day.Back in Kazakhstan, officials and the media are tight-lipped over the state of the president’s health. Nazarbayev’s office, which said on July 11 that he was taking a short vacation, issued no public statement and couldn’t be reached for comment.The Kazakh media were mostly silent on the news, with the exception of the occasional outlet such as the Respublika newspaper, known for its anti-government stance, which questioned why the president’s office was keeping quiet in the face of international media interest in Nazarbayev’s health.Meanwhile, an “informed source” in Astana gave the KazTAG news agency a different take on the reports. “The president has undergone a prophylactic medical examination in a clinic abroad, and will return to the country in the coming days,” the agency quoted the source as saying.In the absence of clear information, the rumor mill has again gone into overdrive. For certain, when he turns up in Astana, Nazarbayev is going to be under a lot of scrutiny.