Turkmenistan swears in dictator’s son as new president
Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 40, “won” 73 per cent of the vote. The election included eight other nominal candidates and replaced Serdar’s father, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
Gurbanguly, 64, announced his resignation last month after ruling since 2006, following the death of the founding autocratic president, Saparmurat Niyazov.
Turkmenistan, which has six million inhabitants, has not reported any Covid cases and remains economically dependent on gas exports.
The country is largely closed off to foreigners.
But the new president said at his inauguration: “We are open to all countries and peoples of the world and aim to develop trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian, scientific and educational ties with them in the future.”
Serdar was adorned with the giant golden chain of office in a lavish ceremony. The new president said he would “continue the path of development created over 30 years of our sacred independence”.
“In our external relations we will retain the policy of neutrality,” Serdar said.
He has been rapidly promoted and went into the election as deputy head of the cabinet with sweeping powers over the economy. Serdar was also appointed as a member of the powerful security council.
His election opponents were mostly little-known civil servants in an almost invisible election campaign.
Serdar promotes the alabai shepherd dog and the Akhal-Teke horse – two symbolic national breeds – and in his speech, he promised Turkmenistan “will preserve and increase” the two animals.
Gurbanguly will become head of the upper house, the second-highest ranking government position.
Saparmurat Niyazov was regarded as one of the world’s most eccentric leaders.
The Türkmenbaşy Ruhy Mosque, built by Niyazov, is unlike most mosques in that its walls are inscribed, controversially, with scriptures from not just the Koran but also the Ruhnama, semi-illiterate Niyazov’s spiritual guide to life.
The vast prayer room can hold 10,000 worshippers, with 7,000 men on the main floor and 3,000 women on the upper level. Beneath the mosque is 400 parking spaces.
The book, Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul), is a rambling mess full of dubious claims.
Niyazov had copies distributed to every school and library and reading it was compulsory for the driving test and it was required reading in schools and universities.
Serdar Berdimuhamedov (left) visits the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation in 2018. Picture credit: