* Kazakhstan to hold parliamentary vote Jan. 15-16
* Dariga Nazarbayeva among candidates on ruling party list
* Analysts say daughter seeks political rehabilitation
* Sportsmen, artists join politicians on party list
By Dmitry Solovyov and Olga Orininskaya
ALMATY, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter is set to return to politics after being named as a parliamentary election candidate, but analysts said it was premature to conclude she was being groomed to succeed her father.
Foreign investors routinely cite the uncertainty around who will eventually succeed Nazarbayev as the single biggest risk to stability in Kazakhstan, which mines more uranium than any other and holds 3 percent of the world’s recoverable oil reserves.
President Nazarbayev has ruled the mainly Muslim country of 16.6 million since before independence in 1991, and tolerated little dissent or opposition on a path to building his oil-producing nation into the biggest economy in Central Asia.
Dariga Nazarbayeva, who once ran against her father in a parliamentary election, was nominated on Friday among the candidates from which the dominant Nur Otan party will choose its deputies after a January election it is almost certain to win.
While the nomination of Nazarbayeva is a nod to her political comeback, the once-popular theory she could be a successor to her father carries little credence today.
“This appears to be an attempt to rehabilitate herself as a public figure,” said Dosym Satpayev, a prominent Almaty-based political analyst.
“The extent of Dariga Nazarbayeva’s political activities will be determined personally by the head of state. For now, he will give her a welcome, but insignificant, position as one of many members of parliament.”
Nazarbayeva was not immediately available for comment when Reuters contacted her spokesman.
A 48-year-old opera enthusiast and former head of Kazakhstan’s biggest state media network, she is the eldest of the president’s three daughters and ran her own political party, Asar (“All Together”), in the middle of the last decade.
She stood against her father’s party in a 2004 parliamentary election and herself occupied a seat in the legislature, before later folding her party into Nur Otan and quitting politics.
Analysts said her subsequent absence from politics was connected in part with the break-up of her marriage to Rakhat Aliyev, the former ambassador to Austria who fell out with Nazarbayev and has become an enemy of the president from exile.
“She has taken some time out after these events,” said political analyst Andrei Chebotaryov.
“The theme of succession has no relevance right now,” he said. “Her return is more an issue of rehabilitation in the eyes of some sections of society, most importantly the ruling elite.”
Nur Otan members occupy 98 of the 107 seats in the lower house of parliament, or Mazhilis. The other nine deputies are chosen by the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan, a consultative body loyal to the president.
The snap parliamentary vote on Jan. 15-16 is designed to equip authorities to withstand a looming global financial crunch and add democratic sheen to a country where Western monitors have never judged an election free and fair.
The election will dilute Nur Otan’s monopoly by admitting at least a nominal opposition presence to the chamber.
Parties will choose deputies after the election, when it becomes clear how many seats will be allocated to each. Nur Otan published its candidate list on its website, www.ndp-nurotan.kz.
Not every member on the list can become a deputy. Nur Otan nominated 127 people on a list that includes famous sportsmen, artists and singers among established politicians and influential officials such as Almaty mayor Akhmetzhan Yesimov.
Cyclist Alexander Vinokourov was among several decorated athletes included on the party list, along with hurdler Olga Shishigina and boxer Yermakhan Ibraimov, both of whom won gold medals representing Kazakhstan in the 2000 Olympic Games.
To rapturous applause at a pre-election Nur Otan party congress, Nazarbayev recited a long list of social and economic achievements during 20 years of independence.
“Per capita GDP will total more than $10,000 this year and will reach $15,000 in 2015. Could we even have dreamt of this in our time?” the 71-year-old president told the congress.
Competing parties in the election must win at least 7 percent of the vote to secure seats in the legislature, but changes to electoral law will guarantee a handful of seats for the second-placed party even if it falls short of the threshold.
Many analysts expect the second-placed party to be widely sympathetic to Nur Otan, posing no direct challenge to the established leadership of the former Soviet republic. (Additional reporting by Mariya Gordeyeva; Writing by Robin Paxton)