Voters in Turkmenistan are set to go to the polls on Saturday to elect their president, which will allow the son of the current leader to rule this isolated and dictatorial country in Central Asia through an early ballot.
The successor between Kurbanguli Bertimugamedov and his son Serdar, who experienced a meteorite rise in recent years, marks the first major change in Turkmenistan in more than 15 years.
Officially, nine candidates are vying, but there is no doubt that 40-year-old Serd Bertimugamotov will win the ballot. Polling stations are open from 02:00 GMT (03:00 in Switzerland) to 14:00 GMT (15:00 in Switzerland).
Goubangouly Berdymoukhamedov, 64, has been unfortunately credited with brutally suppressing all forms of protest since the death of his predecessor, Saparmourat Niazov, who came to power in 2006.
Most famous abroad for the eccentric personality cult he is subject to, Gurbanguli Bertimaugamedov abruptly announced last month that he wanted to retire in favor of the “younger generation”.
The current leader, who has a golden equestrian statue in Ashgabat, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Central Asia with a population of about six million, should be behind the scenes of power.
With elections in the international arena, Russia, a former regional power, began launching its forces to attack Ukraine in late February, causing a wave of global shock.
The government-controlled Turkmen media has largely covered up Europe’s worst conflict since World War II, referring only to a “complex situation” in Ukraine.
While not a total suspense, Saturday’s election will be scrutinized by observers from Central Asia, where regimes generally change over the death of the leader as they remain stable.
The exception took place in Kazakhstan in 2019, when Narsultan Nazarbayev ceded his throne to the loyal Lieutenant Qasim-Jomart Tokayev. But the riots of January revealed a fierce struggle for influence among their clans.
Serd Bertimugamedov has been experiencing rapid growth in recent years. He served as Deputy Minister of the Cabinet and Member of the Powerful Security Council last year, especially as Deputy Foreign Minister and Regional Governor. After all he is little known, and his official autobiography only mentions that he is “the most experienced” of the candidates, even though he is the youngest.
Goubangouly Berdymoukhamedov has confirmed that he will continue in politics as the second person in the state to head the Senate. According to Rouslan Myatiev, editor of the independent Europe-based Turkmen.News newspaper, constitutional amendments could give the legislature more powers “if anything goes wrong with Serdar”.
Cerdar Bertimugamedov called his presidential initiative a “great responsibility” and promised to follow in his father’s footsteps, including the younger generation who grew up after independence from the Soviet Union.
Turkmenistan’s economy is almost entirely dependent on natural gas sales, especially for China, and was greatly affected by the global recession at the onset of the corona virus epidemics.