Turkmen President obtains senator’s seat, presage of succession

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Ashkhabad | The president of Turkmenistan, one of the most authoritarian and reclusive countries on the planet, has won a senator’s seat in the new upper house of parliament, a sign of possible preparations for his succession.

According to the state newspaper Netralny Turkmenistan, President Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov was elected alongside 47 other candidates after the first senatorial elections held on Sunday in the Central Asian country.

The 48 seats in the upper house were chosen by local councils made up of officials linked to the state, after a vote that lasted only two hours.

No real opposition formation was represented, as in other elections, none of which was ever recognized as fair by international observers.

According to an official quoted in state media, Berdymoukhamedov obtained 100% of the votes in his favor. His candidacy had not been made public, but the number of candidates had suddenly increased from 111 to 112 on the eve of the vote.

Full control of the upper house of parliament is important to the Berdymoukhamedov family as its president will be the second figure in the state since constitutional changes passed in 2020.

Mr. Berdymoukhamedov must also designate eight other senator seats and choose a president of the upper house of Parliament.

The new bicameral Parliament of Turkmenistan, the Milli Geňeş (“National Council”), will thus be composed of 56 senators and 125 deputies.

Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov’s son, Serdar, 39, was recently the subject of a series of appointments seen as preparation for his father’s succession. In February, he became Deputy Prime Minister and a member of the powerful Security Council after holding several diplomatic posts.

The questions about the succession of Mr. Berdymoukhamedov, in power since 2006, come as Turkmenistan is facing economic difficulties due to the fall in the price of hydrocarbons, on which the country’s budget is dependent.

If Serdar takes the reins of the country after his father, it would be the first hereditary succession in Central Asia, a region dominated by former Soviet republics where family clans play a large role.

Gourbangouly Berdymoukhamedov was the dentist and then Minister of Health of the first Turkmen leader, Saparmurat Niazov, before taking over after his death.

Turkmenistan is one of the most repressive countries in the world and known for the cult of personality surrounding its ruler.