The son of Turkmenistan’s authoritarian leader will run in an early presidential election next month, a move that lays the foundation for a political dynasty in the gas-rich Central Asian republic.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 64, announced the vote on Saturday, saying he is ready to relinquish power to a new generation in a statement that appeared to suggest that his 40-year-old son Serdar would succeed him.
Turkmenistan’s state TV reported Monday that the country’s Democratic Party had nominated Serdar as a candidate in the race. He has risen through a series of increasingly prominent government posts and is now the deputy chairman of the Cabinet.
The vote is scheduled for March 12.
No election in post-Soviet Turkmenistan has been considered genuinely competitive. While eight candidates ran against Berdymukhamedov in the last election in 2017, all expressed support for his government and Berdymukhamedov tallied more than 97% of the vote.
Berdymukhamedov came to power in 2006 after the death of the eccentric Saparmurat Niyazov and he established a pervasive personality cult similar to his predecessor’s. Under his rule, the country has remained difficult for outsiders to enter. Turkmenistan has not reported any cases of infection in the coronavirus pandemic.
It also has struggled to diversify its economy, which is overwhelmingly dependent on its vast natural gas reserves.
Berdymukhamedov cultivates an image of robust and aggressive health with media stunts that included his firing a pistol at a man-sized target while riding a bicycle and hoisting a gold weightlifting bar, to the applause of his Cabinet.