Ashgabat prepares for dynastic succession
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Serdar, son of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has reached the age to succeed his father. The Turkmen satrap could rule from behind the scenes like Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan. Internal security strengthened after the return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Moscow (AsiaNews) - Turkmenistan'S Serdar Berdymukhamedov has reached the required age to take over the presidency from his father Gurbanguly. The Turkmen president's son will celebrate his birthday just as the country is preparing to celebrate 30 years of independence from the Russian-Soviet masters,  on September 27. On that day, the Khalk Maslakhat, the country's supreme legislative body which has an honorary function, will meet and it could be the right occasion for the dauphin's coronation.

Serdar turns 40 today, which according to the local Constitution (often ignored, but in this case auspicious) is the minimum age for presidential candidates. The 64-year-old father replaced the first post-Soviet president, Saparmyrat Nyyazov, in 2007. Appointing a successor would give a youthful image to the entire dynasty, given that Gurbanguly would continue to control the nation from behind the scenes, a practice now common in Central Asia.

Berdymukhamedov-son finished university in 2014; he entered parliament as a deputy in 2016 in a by-election created for him. The authorities announced the results of the vote without any voters knowing it was even taking place and the "voluntary" retirement of the deputy who gave him the seat. In addition to the parliamentary seat, Serdar also occupies the roles of deputy premier, deputy foreign minister, governor of the province of Akhal (that of the capital), minister of industry and construction, president of the Court of Auditors and member of the Security Council. A resume that makes him eligible for the highest office in the state.

The Turkmen media is lavish in its coverage of the presidential family, and continuously sings Serdar's praises, repeating that "our country is incredibly lucky" to have this president and this son ready to succeed him. Serdar also led the Turkmen delegation to the last Tokyo Olympics: he served as "honorary coach" of all national athletes, and brought back the first historic Olympic medal, that of Polina Gurjeva in weightlifting, whose merits were obviously attributed to the supreme coach. Upon returning home, Serdar gave Gurjeva a new Lexus SUV.

No official announcement confirms the upcoming "elevation", although rumors circulate about the poor health of the diabetic Gurbanguly, perhaps artfully spread by himself. Every now and then the president disappears from circulation for a month or two, only to appear in shining form on a bicycle or engaged in other sporting activities. We are now waiting for the next "epiphany", to understand what the destiny of the country may be.

The president has returned from the summit on Afghanistan in Dushanbe, where he met with other Central Asian leaders, imposing a state of high preventive security throughoutTurkmenistan. In addition to military measures shared with his neighbors, Gurbanguly has introduced greater internal controls: for example, the Ashgabat police have tightened controls on visitors to public parks, preventing meetings between boys of different sexes from taking place there, and imposing that clothing and external appearance correspond to the canons of public morality (short pants are completely forbidden). A boy can only walk with a girl if she is a close relative, and must show documents to confirm that connection.

It is not very clear the reason for this tightening of public ethics, if not for the influence of the "Taliban spirit" blowing from Afghanistan, even if in the past such measures prepared large solemn demonstrations in the country.

The possible rise of Serdar could affect the poor economic conditions in Turkmenistan. The authorities have "called up" many workers for the extraordinary cotton harvest; however, the laborers do not receive their salaries from the owners of the fields, to whom the government is unable to pay the rents. On the other hand, in Ashgabat a new grandstand for state marches was inaugurated on September 16 on Kopetdag prospect. Costing 85 million euros, it will make even that in Moscow's Red Square pale.