Turkmen Leader's Son Takes On New Roles, Rapid Rise Renews Talk Of Succession

ASHGABAT — Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has appointed his son Serdar to the posts of deputy prime minister and chairman of the Supreme Control Chamber, renewing speculation the 63-year-old autocrat is grooming his son to be his successor.

State media outlets reported on February 12 that according to the presidential decrees signed the day before, Serdar Berdymukhammedov also became a member of the State Security Council.

The promotions come a year after the younger Berdymukhammedov assumed the post of minister of industry and construction. A year before that, he was promoted to the post of provincial governor.

The rapid rise of Berdymukhammedov’s son, whose political career started in late 2016 when he became a lawmaker, appears to lay the groundwork for the 39-year-old to eventually take over the tightly controlled Central Asian state.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, speaks to journalists after casting his ballot as his son Serdar (second right) stands with other family members at a polling station in Ashgabat in February 2017.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, speaks to journalists after casting his ballot as his son Serdar (second right) stands with other family members at a polling station in Ashgabat in February 2017.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has run the former Soviet republic since 2006, tolerating no dissent and becoming the center of an elaborate personality cult. Turkmens often refer to him as “Arkadag” (The Protector).

Serdar Berdymukhammedov is often referred to in state media as “the son of the nation,” and his appearances in television reports along with his father are called “the symbol of generations’ continuance.”

In his new job, Serdar Berdymukhammedov will supervise activities related to digitalization and the introduction of innovative technologies to the state and social infrastructure, as well as the health-care, education, financial and economic sectors, his father said in a televised statement.

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the secretive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov.

Like his late predecessor, Berdymukhammedov has relied on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.

According to Human Rights Watch, Berdymukhammedov, “his relatives, and their associates control all aspects of public life, and the authorities encroach on private life.”

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