Turkmenistan - Serdar Berdymukhammedov
Serdar Berdymukhammedov burst onto the Turkmen political scene in 2021 when he was tapped to be deputy prime minister, one of several official positions he held. He is also a member of the State Security Council. Rumors had been swirling for a year that Berdymukhammedov will attempt to transfer power to his son, Serdar Berdymukhammedov, who turned 40 in September 2021, reaching the legal age requirement to become president. Insight into Serdar’s character is difficult to find. He certainly seems uncomfortable in many photos and videos.
Should he succeed his father, Serdar Berdymukhammedov would take over one of the most secluded and impoverished nations in Eurasia despite its massive energy resources, including natural gas. Serdar Berdymukhammedov was on hand during the meeting of the People’s Council and presented the nation's economic development plan through 2052. Details of the 30-year plan were not made public.
The elder Berdymukhammedov had mismanaged the nation’s economy as he focused on building a cult following. Rumors of ill health have followed nearly every one of Central Asia’s leaders, and they are too often rooted in desperate hopes for deliverance from despotism. But Berdymukhammedov is a diabetic and his uncharacteristic disappearance from the public eye for a month in summer 2019 seemed the strongest indication yet that his physical condition might be deteriorating, despite repeated footage on state television of him bicycling or exercising.
The country has experienced increases in the prices of fuel, goods and services, and food in recent years, in many cases rising at least 300 to 500 percent as subsidies were stopped and demand overwhelmed supplies. Berdymukhammedov, who came to power in a rigged election in 2007 following the death of long-serving President Saparmurat Niyazov, did not specify when he intends to step down.
A short stint in the military was part of Serdar's preparation; he served in the army from 2001 to 2003 as a private. A surprise announcement came in August 2017 when he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, right before the start of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, though it was not clear when he was first made an officer.
Serdar’s fortunes really took off after his father became Turkmenistan’s acting leader in late 2006. Until then, Serdar had been working in the food-processing sector and appeared to be headed toward a career in the Turkmen wine industry.
But in 2008 he went to study at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy and was simultaneously assigned as a counselor at the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow. He completed his studies in Russian in 2011 and then became a student at the Geneva Center for Security Policy. While there for two years, he served simultaneously at the Turkmen Mission to the UN office in Geneva and as a counselor at Turkmenistan’s consulate.
The counselor posts were important because they preserved Serdar’s residency status. According to the Turkmen Constitution, parliamentary deputies must have lived in Turkmenistan for the previous 10 consecutive years to qualify as a candidate. Presidents must have lived in the country for 15 years.
Serdar Berdymukhammedov finished his university work in August 2014 when he earned a degree in physics and mathematical sciences from Turkmenistan's Academy of Sciences. By November 2016 had won a seat in parliament in an unpublicized snap election to fill several vacant seats. The first news of the election was the announcement that Serdar had won a seat in parliament; it later emerged that the deputy whose seat Serdar won had asked to step down shortly before the election was held.
The younger Berdymukhammedov was still a member of parliament, but he was also deputy prime minister in charge of economic and financial affairs; after that, it is difficult to keep track of how many state posts he held since being reelected to parliament in 2018.
He has been deputy minister of foreign affairs, deputy governor, then later governor of the Ahal Province where the capital, Ashgabat, is located, minister of industry and construction, deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, chairman of the Supreme Control Chamber, and was in the State Security Council.
Serdar Berdymukhammedov is also the president of the Turkmen Alabai dog association and the Ahal Teke Horse Breeding Association, both animals such powerful symbols in Turkmenistan that statues have been erected to them.
State media have been lavishing attention over Serdar Berdymukhammedov for several years, and they recently reported that Turkmenistan is lucky to have him around. He led the Turkmen delegation to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer and was the honorary trainer of the national team, which won the country's first-ever Olympic medal. Weightlifter Polina Guryeva won that silver medal, although somehow, according to state media, the positive effect of Serdar Berdymukhammedov seemed to help her. Back in Turkmenistan, the younger Berdymukhammedov was shown on state television presenting Guryeva with a new Lexus sports utility vehicle. Serdar Berdymukhammedov had been all over state television, giving out awards to athletes and performers and visiting schools to talk with children.
During the session of International Association «Türkmen alabaý itleri» on 21 April 2021, Speaker of the Mejlis of National Assembly G. Mammedova read out the Order of the President of Turkmenistan on award of Vice-premier, Chairman of the Supreme Control Chmaber, Head of International Ahalteke Equestrian Association and International Association «Türkmen alabaý itleri» Serdar Berdimuhamedov with honorary title «Türkmenistanyn at gazanan itsynasy». Having expressed gratitude to the President of Turkmenistan for appreciation of his activity, S. Berdimuhamedov highlighted that International Association «Türkmen alabaý itleri» founded at the initiative of the head of the state is to support the spread of glory of Turkmen shepherd dogs, which are national pride and heritage.
There are reports that when he was a student in Russia he was “composed,” not given to strong displays of emotion, and despite being the son of a president, generally behaved like any other student. Others say that prior to being elected to parliament he seemed more interested in business and appeared a bit disinterested in politics.
According to another report, after becoming governor of Ahal Province, Serdar imposed a series of new regulations governing access to the provincial administrative building and personal conduct inside the building. The new rules gave only a few officials permission to come to his office, ordering employees to remain in their offices during working hours unless they absolutely needed to go out, and that they should be quiet while inside the building. No mobile phones were allowed inside; guards -- something that had not existed under previous governors -- were placed around the building.
It is said that it was common for Serdar to bully subordinates, telling them: “I’ll snap your neck,” in a sign that his grooming process seems to involve a range of techniques for governance.
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