A political dynasty takes shape in Turkmenistan

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In Turkmenistan, where the media never ceases to praise the president and his family, a political dynasty seems to be looming. As in other former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

This state rich in hydrocarbons, considered one of the most repressive in the world, is also renowned for the cult of the personality surrounding its leader, Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov, 63 years old.

On Turkmen television, he is regularly seen playing music, or playing sports in green jogging. He has also been seen to shoot with a machine gun or drive a speedster speeding through the desert.

The recent promotion of her son suggests a growing nepotism.

In February, Serdar Berdymoukhamedov, 39, was appointed chief auditor, deputy prime minister and member of the National Security Council.

These functions make him “the number two after the president”, explains to AFP Rousslan Miatiïev, editor of the independent site Turkmen News, based in the Netherlands.

The only son of the Head of State, who also has three daughters, Serdar Berdymoukhamedov will combine these positions with that of leader of the Turkmen Association of Central Asian Sheepdogs.

In November, a giant golden statue was erected in the capital, Ashkhabad, in honor of this canine considered a national symbol.

It was not until 2016, after Serdar Berdymoukhamedov was elected to parliament, that Turkmens discovered that he had a political career.

During his first televised appearances, he “seemed quite lost”, notes Rousslan Toukhbatoulline, editor-in-chief of the media Chronicles of Turkmenistan, also based in the Netherlands.

His image “has been reworked” since, according to Mr. Toukhbatoulline, but he remains less fond of cameras than his father.

Adored grandson

Another member of the family enjoys special attention: the president’s favorite grandson, Kerimgouly Berdymoukhamedov.

In December, the stocky teenager was caught on camera making a snowman with his grandfather.

In the past, they have already composed and performed together on television several songs, including a hit on Turkmen horses, another pride of the country.

The grandson was even awarded a prize last summer for having enriched “national art with new works” and “successful performances at festive events”.

“Berdymoukhamedov uses public television like an outdated Instagram. Just as some parents brag about their children on social networks, he shows his grandsons on television, ”notes Rousslan Toukhbatoulline.

A dentist by training, Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov came to power in 2006, after the death of his fanciful predecessor, Saparmurat Niazov.

If the latter had renamed a month of the year in honor of his mother, he had nevertheless kept his family out of the spotlight.

Emerging families

Among the former Soviet republics, only Azerbaijan, in the Caucasus, has had two presidents from the same family: its current leader, Ilham Aliev, succeeded his father, Heydar Aliev, who died in 2003.

But in Tajikistan, the poorest country in Central Asia, a dynasty also appears.

Roustam Emomali, eldest son of President Emomali Rakhmon, has chaired the Senate there for about a year. And he is supposed to become interim head of state in the event that his father, in power since 1992, can no longer govern.

In Kazakhstan, the former head of state Nursultan Nazarbayev, 80, remains very powerful and leads the ruling party, despite his surprise resignation from the presidency in 2019.

A loyalist, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, succeeded him but his daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, was elected Member of Parliament in January. His nephew, Samat Abich, is deputy director of the security services.

Mr. Nazarbayev could prepare a long-term “collective” succession divided between different members of his family, political scientist Talgat Mamiraïmov assures AFP.

The ways of power remain difficult to predict, however.

In Uzbekistan, the daughter of the late President Islam Karimov, Goulnara, had long been seen as his potential successor. Before falling out of favor. She is now serving a 13-year prison sentence for fraud and embezzlement.