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Mr. Aliyev said he was the first to propose that Kazakhstan seek the OSCE chairmanship, an idea the president initially rejected but then embraced when he realized it would confer prestige.

“Kazakhstan has a party of one; there is only the president,” Mr. Aliyev said. “He controls the election commission and the judicial system. Senior officials are in his back pocket. Anyone who challenges the system becomes a target.”

In 2005, Mr. Nazarbayev received 91 percent of the vote in an election that international observers judged to be flawed. The observers included monitors from the OSCE, which to date has never endorsed a Kazakh election as free and fair.

The falling-out has been costly for Mr. Aliyev: His marriage was annulled, and he has not seen his wife and three children for years. Fears over his personal security are near-constant, and while he lives in reasonable comfort, most of his assets in Kazakhstan have been appropriated by the state.

Other critics of the Kazakh regime have fared far worse.

In November 2005, Zamanbek Nurkadilov, a former minister who threatened to go public with information about high-level corruption, was found dead at his apartment in Almaty, the commercial capital, three weeks before presidential elections.

The government ruled his death a suicide, even though police reports said he was shot three times, twice in the chest and once in the head.

Three months later, the body of another leading opposition figure, Altynbek Sarsenbayev, was found along with those of his driver and bodyguard. A group of top-level officers from the Kazakh intelligence service, the KNB, later confessed to the slayings.

Alexander Krainov, who worked for Mr. Aliyev at the Kazakh Embassy in Vienna at the time of Mr. Aliyev’s dismissal, said his two daughters back in Kazakhstan were detained for several months to force him to testify against his former boss.

He said Kazakh authorities repeatedly tried to lure him to the embassy premises in what he is convinced were attempts to abduct him.

“It’s a regime of personal power. This is what we must live with for not being obedient,” Mr. Krainov said.

At least two of the attackers involved in the assault on Mr. Musayev were reportedly former agents of communist East Germany’s notorious secret service, the Stasi. Austrian authorities have said they are investigating whether a foreign country was behind the kidnapping attempt.

Mr. Nazarbayev also was tarred several years ago by a corruption scandal involving an American businessman and former adviser, James Giffen, who allegedly paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to the president and to a former minister of oil and gas.

In a story published July 22 in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Aliyev said the president and his aides siphoned off millions when state industries were privatized and collected kickbacks from foreign companies seeking to do business in Kazakhstan.

These and other suspicious activities alarm critics as the OSCE chairmanship approaches.

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