Voting in Turkmenistan should establish a political dynasty
He faces what appears to be token competition from eight other nominees in Saturday’s vote, including a regional deputy governor and a lawmaker.
“My main goal is to continue on the glorious path of development built for 30 years of independence and to successfully implement programs aimed at ensuring a high level of social conditions for the people,” Serdar Berdymukhamedov said during the presentation of its platform during a televised speech.
No election in post-Soviet Turkmenistan has been considered truly competitive. While eight candidates ran against Berdymukhamedov in the last election in 2017, all expressed support for his government and Berdymukhamedov garnered over 97% of the vote.
Berdymukhamedov came to power in 2006 after the death of the eccentric Saparmurat Niyazov and established a pervasive personality cult similar to that of his predecessor. Under his reign, the country remained difficult to access for foreigners. Turkmenistan has not reported any cases of infection in the coronavirus pandemic.
It has also struggled to diversify its economy, which largely depends on its vast reserves of natural gas. China has replaced Russia as the main destination for Turkmen gas exports, while Russian demand is expected to decline further due to tensions with the West over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Berdymukhamedov cultivated a robust health image with media stunts that included firing a pistol at a human-sized target while riding a bicycle and hoisting a gold weightlifting bar, to applause from his cabinet. It is titled Arkadag, or Protector.
When the Turkmen leader announced the vote last month, he said the country should be led by young people. His son has just turned 40, the minimum age to become president under Turkmen law.
During the campaign, all candidates praised Berdymukhamedov, who said he would retain the post of head of the country’s upper house of parliament.