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President of Turkmenistan weighs establishment of ruling dynasty: experts

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his son Serdar. Photo: azathabar.com

Registration of candidates for parliament is over in Turkmenistan. The elections are set for March 25. Representatives of three political subjects will be running for parliament: Democratic Party, Party of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs, and Agrarian Party. Considering that there are no other political forces in the country, the new parliament will little differ from the current one. Experts anticipate appointment of a new parliament speaker, namely President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s son, Serdar.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has again appeared in public accompanied by his son Serdar. This time, they visited Turkmenabad to attend a sports event Amul-Khazar-2018 international rally. The event would go unnoticed, but for mainstream media calling it “a symbol of succession of generations.” mass media call Serdar “the son of the head of state,” “the son of our people.” Addressing his activity, mass media say he actively works for development of large-scale sports movement and healthy lifestyle among the youth. The son of Tajik President Rustam Emomali started his political career in a similar way. He embarked on a meteoric career: from football player in Istiklol professional football club to Dushanbe Mayor within a few years. Between these two positions, he worked as a member of Dushanbe legislative assembly, at the committee for investments and state property, chaired the Union of the Youth of Tajikistan, and in 2013, obtained the rank of major general and headed the Customs Services. In another two years, Rustam Emomali headed the Agency of State Financial Control and Combating Corruption. He has turned 30 lately and can now run for president.

As to Serdar Berdymukhamedov, little was known about him until recently. Now, it is known that “the young parliamentarian heads the National Federation of Martial Arts of Turkmenistan,” the Parliamentary Committee for Legislation and Standards, and has the rank of major. In October, 2017, President Berdymukhamedov awarded his son with Medal after Myalikgli Berdymukhamedov (his father, Serdar’s grandfather) for services to the motherland.

Talking to EADaily earlier, expert Shokhrat Kadyrov said “they in Turkmenistan try to legalize the authoritarian trend probably with a bias for gerontocracy.”

“Assumptions that Berdymukhamedov is preparing a successor were made also before. Today, they speak about this more openly. In the post-Soviet countries, transfer of power from father to son is a trend now. For instance, speaking in public about his junior son, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said there is someone who can take his post in 20-25 years. In Azerbaijan, the power was transferred from father to son and a similar “campaign” is apparently underway there. In Uzbekistan, “the successor campaign” has failed after the president’s daughter Gulnara Karimova was jailed. Ukraine has no such opportunity, as the local power is not independent,” Sharbatullo Sodikov, a research fellow at the International Studies Institute, the Moscow State University of International Relations, told EADaily.

According to the expert, Serdar Berdymukhamedov obtained PhD in Technical Sciences in a year after master’s dissertation. “Turkmen mass media pay much attention to his political activity. He has actually become the second person in the country. Serdar is always present at official events, he is taking foreign trips, including to Russia. He even headed a delegation to Tatarstan. He appears on television almost as frequently as the president. All this is not for a reason. He is actually being prepared for the post of the president,” Sodikov said.

“The Turkmen propaganda has put into circulation the issue of succession to the throne of Arkadag, the official title of the president. This is a preamble to declaring Serdar as president’s successor. The title ‘son of the Turkmen people’ was given to Major Berdymukhamedov-junior for a reason,” the expert said. He does not think that the ruling family of Turkmenistan has finally decided to approve legislatively its right to everlasting reign, “but it is actually taking steps to legalize its quasi-monarchic tyranny. All that is left to do is to declare the senior grandson ‘as grandson of the Turkmen people’ and announce a family tender for title of ‘the daughter of the Turkmen people’. On that way, Turkmenistan has left some of its neighbors behind.

For instance, in Tajikistan, President Emomali Rahmon does the same with his sons and daughters, preparing them for future reign. However, he does not speak about it yet and hopes the people understand everything…,” political analyst Arkady Dubnov told EADaily. He said Kazakhstan weighed “family reign” for a while, but has abandoned that idea later. “President Nursultan Nazarbayev openly said it will never happen, but he did not say how it is going to happen. It is worth mentioning that after Chinese leader Xi Jingping has approved himself as irreplaceable leader of China – of course for stability and prosperity – Turkmenistan ‘caught the initiative’ and this trend is likely to reach entire Eurasia,” Dubnov said.

Maksat Saparmuradov, chairman of Board of Russian-Turkmen Friendship Society, is sure that Serdar Berdymukhamedov will be elected as parliament speaker and will automatically, in accordance with the Constitution of Turkmenistan, become the second person in the country. If for some reason the president is not able to exercise his power, the power is transferred to parliament speaker. In such situation, his son will take his post. It is the right step by a dictator who seeks to insure himself against any risks, because he has no trust in his proxies,” Saparmuradov said. He is sure that Berdymukhamedov is trying to get a way out of the critical situation: Turkmenistan experiences deficit of bread, flour, and other foodstuffs. In Ashgabat, one can still buy some food, but in rural areas queues and quarrels for flour and bread are commonplace. This is going to result in food riots.

However, a change of persons in power will not change the situation. The country needs loans, investments to activate economic sectors – to feed and comfort the people. Berdymukhamedov has lately signed a decree to distribute by $11.5 to all women on occasion of Spring holidays… I am afraid, this will spark a social revolt and U.S. troops will appear in the country allegedly to defend TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline and geopolitical interests in the country,” Maksat Saparmuradov said for conclusion.

EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau

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