Serdar Berdimukhamedov, the 40-year-old son of Turkmenistan’s incumbent President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, won a landslide — and universally expected — victory in the authoritarian country’s March 12 presidential election.
The election was a symbolic process with none of the other eight registered contenders, seen as token candidates, posing any real challenge to the planned handover of power from Berdimukhamedov to his son Serdar. There were no international observers of the election, which was not considered to be free and fair by anyone.
Serdar Berdimukhamedov, currently the deputy prime minister of Turkmenistan, took 72.97% of the vote, with the next-ranked candidate, vice-rector at the Turkmen state institute of physical culture and sports Hydyr Nunnayev on 11.09%, according to figures reported by the State News Agency of Turkmenistan.
Other candidates included the chief physician at the Avaza sanatorium, the head of a local sanitation and disease control service and director of the State Energy Institute of Turkmenistan’s renewable energy centre.
As reported previously, voter turnout in the March 12 snap election was 97%, according to official figures announced by Turkmenistan’s Central Election Committee (CEC) announced. RFE/RL reported last week that Turkmen public sector workers and their families in the southeastern Mary Province had been ordered to vote early and cast their ballots for Serdar.
Serdar’s ascendancy to power is set to mark the first successful dynastic transfer of power in Central Asia.
Little is known about Serdar, who rarely speaks in public. He has issued an election manifesto, published by the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper, but it is filled with little more than mechanical pledges on developing democracy and civil society. Prior to the February announcement of the snap election, Berdimuhamedov tasked Serdar with overseeing the country’s economy, which was in a parlous state for years even before things got worse with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president, who has ruled for 15 years, bears the honorific title of Arkadag (“Protector”) and may well continue to exercise much power from behind the scenes even after Serdar wins the so-called election, in November last year placed his son in charge of the country's oil and gas sector.
Turkmen foreign-based opposition-run website Chronicles of Turkmenistan described Serdar, who ran Ahal province at the time, as behaving akin to a despot-in-waiting. “His favourite expression when talking to subordinates was ‘I will wring your neck,’” the dissident publication quoted one source as saying.