A health scare involving President Nursultan Nazarbayev is forcing Kazakhstan’s political class to confront a vexing question: what does the post-Nazarbayev future look like?
The septuagenarian president returned to work on July 21 looking hale and hearty amid conjecture sparked by a German newspaper report that he had been hospitalized at a Hamburg clinic. That report was followed by a claim from his estranged former son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, that the president is battling prostate cancer.
Nazarbayev’s office initially explained that the president was on vacation. But on July 25 presidential advisor Yermukhamet Yertysbayev – repeating previous leaks to journalists from an “informed source” – said that Nazarbayev had merely undergone a regular biannual check-up in Germany.
Nazarbayev, Yertysbayev added, is “full of strength and energy,” and intends to see out his presidential term to 2016.
Nevertheless, the succession question poses an increasing quandary as Nazarbayev – who has been in power for two decades and turned 71 this month – grows older.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.