Youth leader

Turkmenistan leader’s son to run for president in succession move

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Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) (AFP) – The son of Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been nominated as a presidential candidate next month, state media reported on Monday, after the autocrat announced he would step down and authorities called for an early vote.

“At the extraordinary congress of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan held in Ashgabat, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the country, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, was nominated as a candidate for the presidency,” said the television presenter of State.

The Central Asian country on the Caspian Sea is one of the most repressive and secretive states in the world and little is known about how the regime makes its day-to-day decisions. The country has never held competitive voting, and young Berdymukhamedov will almost certainly have no real opponents in the March 12 instant vote.

The gas-rich former Soviet republic has no free media, honors its authoritarian rulers with ostentatious gold statues and has admitted no coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit.

Berdymukhamedov senior, who is the country’s president, chairman of the cabinet and head of the senate, has been the regime’s policymaker for 15 years.

His hobbies, including horse riding, mass cycling, songwriting and book writing, have made him a curiosity across the world on social media, which is blocked in Turkmenistan.

In a historic speech to parliament on Friday, Berdymukhamedov, 64, said he had made “a difficult decision” about his leadership because of his age, adding that the country needed “young leaders”.

– Rapid rise –

Berdymukhamedov junior is currently the second most powerful government official with wide influence over the economy as deputy cabinet chairman. Having turned 40 last year, he is now eligible for the presidency.

The state television announcer said that he “delivered a speech to the congress delegates, which ended in a vote. The congress participants unanimously supported Serdar Berdymukhamedov’s candidacy for the post of President of Turkmenistan”.

Last year, Serdar Berdymukhamedov boosted his international profile with a four-day visit to Russia and talks in the capital Ashgabat with Wang Yi, the foreign minister of Turkmenistan’s main trading partner, China.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has said he wants to stay in politics in his role as speaker of the upper house of parliament.

His son’s exposure in state media only began to grow after he became a lawmaker in 2016.

He retained his post as lawmaker in 2018, winning 91% of the vote, recalling the landslide victories in the national elections of his father, who tolerates no dissent.

In 2021, Serdar Berdymukhamedov rose to the rank of deputy prime minister in the cabinet led by his father and secured a seat on the powerful security council.

He was also appointed the country’s auditor general, a role that allows him to oversee government spending.

His father – an avid equestrian – is honored with a gilded statue in central Ashgabat, which depicts him on horseback, with a dove perched on his hand.