Serdar Berdymukhammedov, in front of a portrait of his father, Gurbanguly. (file photo)
Serdar Berdymukhammedov, the son of autocratic incumbent Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has easily won a weekend presidential election in Turkmenistan, a result widely viewed as a formality to the transfer of political power within the family.
The Central Election Commission said on March 15 that official results showed Berdymukhammedov took 72.97 percent of the vote, easily defeating eight other candidates on the ballot, all of whom were known for being loyal to the president and were not considered real competitors.
The March 12 election came after the 64-year-old incumbent told the upper chamber of parliament on February 11 that he intended to step aside to allow power to be turned over to “young leaders.”
Most observers saw that as an indication that he was preparing to hand the presidency to his son, who in September turned 40 -- the minimum age required under the constitution to be eligible for the nation's highest office. The candidate finishing in second place with 11 percent was Hydyr Nunnayev, deputy rector for scientific affairs of the Turkmen State Institute of Physical Culture and Sports. The Central Election Commission on March 15 also confirmed its claim that more than 97 percent of the nation's roughly 3.4 million registered voters had cast ballots at some 2,600 polling stations. Since the country became independent in 1991, no election in Turkmenistan has been deemed free and fair by right groups and Western election monitors. In the run-up to the election, there were no debates among candidates, and the younger Berdymukhammedov limited himself to trips around the country to meet "voters." During these well-scripted meetings, Serdar vowed to continue to stick to Turkmenistan's neutrality policies and "further develop his predecessors' politics on turning the country into a prosperous nation." Serdar Berdymukhammedov rose rapidly through a series of prominent government posts, including deputy foreign minister, the governor of Ahal Province, and industry minister, before becoming deputy head of the cabinet in 2021. The latter is an important post in Turkmenistan, since there is no prime minister, and the president also serves as the head of government.