She's a media mogul, she has a doctorate in political science and she learned to sing opera in secret because her father -- Kazakhstan's president -- disapproved. \nNow, Dariga Nazarbayeva has formed a new political party, setting off speculation she is grooming herself for what could be the second dynastic succession in the countries that emerged from the disintegration of the Soviet Union. \nIt has already happened in Azerbaijan, and what unfolds in Kazakhstan, a resource-rich giant four times bigger than France, could influence the succession in its four smaller Central Asian neighbors. \nNazarbayeva's party -- Asar, or All Together -- was due to hold its first party congress yesterday in Almaty. She claims it will win half the seats in parliament in fall elections. On Tuesday, before getting a single member into parliament, Asar announced it had formed its own parliamentary faction with 10 sympathetic independents. \nNazarbayeva has said she won't seek a parliamentary seat herself and denies her party is a launch pad for her to succeed her father, Nursultan Nazarbayev. \n"I'm not seeking office in the top echelons of so-called big politics," she said in a statement announcing the party's founding in October. \nAlikhan Baimenov, co-chairman of the opposition Ak Zhol party, doesn't see a "high probability" of the 40-year-old Nazarbayeva becoming president. \n"She's just only entered the political stage," he said. "We shall see." \nPetr Svoik, head of another opposition party, Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, says, "It will take more calculation and complicated maneuvering," because Kazakhstan has a multiparty system and experienced politicians. \nBut he believes the Nazarbayevs are "definitely" preparing a family succession. \nSuch speculation is growing in the region as its longtime leaders get older and increasingly resistant to democratization. Most are former communist bosses who have clung to power through controversial constitutional changes or questionable votes. \nTalk of dynasties was fueled when Azerbaijan, a Caucasus state with close ties to Central Asia, elected President Geidar Aliev's son as his successor in October. \nIn Uzbekistan, rumors of dynastic politics are so rife that officials had to deny the president's daughter had married the foreign minister to keep the presidency in the family. In Kyrgyzstan, rumor has it that the country is actually run by the president's wife, and that she wants his job. \nAll this gossip and speculation, if nothing else, is testimony to the secretive, clannish politics in these states, whose efforts toward democratization are young and who are struggling for credibility. \nNazarbayev, 63, came to power in 1989 as the country's communist leader. Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, he has twice been elected president and also extended his term in a referendum. \nHe has no known health problems and enjoys the support of many Kazakhs who credit him for successful market reforms. He is eligible to run for another seven-year term in 2006. \nBut the opposition has grown more active and Nazarbayev has begun to show signs of jitteriness, jailing two opposition leaders and cracking down on opposition media. \nSergei Duvanov, an opposition activist, said Nazarbayeva needs her new Asar party to make her political name and be ready to take power. \n"Aliev's example has shown that one needs a backup, who can take over when it's needed," he said. \nThe party's programs get generous coverage. The president's daughter heads Khabar, Kazakhstan's biggest media group, and in 10 years has turned a mediocre state TV channel into the country's most influential. She is an advocate for media freedom as leader of the Congress of Journalists of Kazakhstan. \nHer party calls itself centrist and favors strong presidential rule under a democratic system. Colleagues praise her organizational skills and recruiting of competent people to further her goals. \nNazarbayeva studied history and political science at Moscow State University. She speaks Kazakh, Russian, English and Italian. \nTrained for years as a mezzo-soprano, she gave her first solo concert at Almaty's National Opera House in 2001, performing pieces by Liszt, Offenbach and others. Profits from the concert went to World War II veterans.
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