Turkmenistan chooses Niyazov's successor

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, first deputy prime minister and health minister, has been appointed acting president of Turkmenistan.

The nomination and approval of the successor proceeded as if Saparmurat Niyazov was still alive, and unless something extraordinary happens, the February 11 presidential election will be a mere formality.

People's Council, the supreme representative body of Turkmenistan, held an extraordinary meeting to adopt the law on the presidential election, name presidential candidates, and set the election date. It looked like another formality, but only at first sight.

The law was drafted in 2005 and was to be approved in October last year. Parliament refused to discuss it, arguing that they did not need the law because Niyazov would be their president as long as he lived.

The decision made sense, as nothing else could have been expected during Niyazov's rule.

The president's death did not come as a complete surprise to the political elite in Turkmenistan and opposition outside it. Everyone knew that Niyazov was gravely ill, yet for the first two or three days it looked as if Turkmenistan could not believe he was dead.

Niyazov had not named his successor, and everyone expected bloody battles for power, undercover machinations, clan quarrels, and other attributes of political fighting in a non-transparent, authoritarian regime.

Some experts say different political scenarios are possible in Turkmenistan, with the exception of an "orange" one, which implies putting pressure on the authorities to snatch the power and inciting the people to stage street protests. But Turkmenistan lacks the main element for this scenario - an opposition.

There are some opposition groups, but they are few and far between, and have long fled the country. They consist mostly of former state officials hiding from Niyazov's wrath.

There are objective reasons for the opposition's weakness, such as extremely low standards of industrialization compared to the other Central Asian republics. A feudal way of life ensures the reign of clans in the social system, the economy and politics, and clans and the opposition cannot coexist in politics.

This makes one wonder if the current Turkmen authorities, left without a charismatic leader, can keep society split into clans from sliding into destabilization.

In my view, they can accomplish this feat if they come to terms with each other, which is possible only if they find a suitable candidate for Niyazov's post. It appears that they have found the man.

Parliament has unanimously approved Berdymukhammedov for the post of acting president and nominated him for the presidency. He will almost certainly win the election.

Eleven candidates were discussed, but the results of voting on 10 of them, which few people in parliament and outside it knew, were not even announced. When Berdymukhammedov was proposed for nomination, the deputies voted for him unanimously, and the news was immediately made public.

According to the republican tradition, the successor - and the next president - has been named, and the decision will be rubberstamped on February 11.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала