Huge parliamentary win sets up Turkmen leader's son for bigger role


Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) (AFP)

The son of Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader scored a huge victory in tightly controlled parliamentary elections, state media reported Friday, in a result that could indicate a path towards hereditary succession in the gas-rich former Soviet state.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the MP son of Turkmenistan's all-powerful President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, won a whopping 91.4 percent of the vote to retain his seat in Sunday's vote, according to state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan.

It was a bigger margin than any other candidate, signalling that the 36-year-old could be getting ready for a more prominent political role.

Some observers have suggested that Serdar -- seen as a possible successor to his 60-year-old father -- could take up the post of speaker in the new parliament.

According to the country's constitution, if the president is unable to fulfil his duties, they fall to the speaker.

Berdymukhamedov's beat official Olgudzheren Gurdova in the seat in the Akhal region, just outside the capital Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan has no tradition of competitive elections or political opposition.

Berdymukhamedov senior has ruled virtually free of institutional checks since late 2006, when his hardline predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov died.

He was re-elected with more than 97 percent of the vote in 2012 and 2017.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov was first elevated to the country's rubber stamp assembly in a by-election just months before his father's 2017 victory, raising eyebrows in Turkmenistan where little is known about the president's relatives.

According to his official biography released earlier this month, the younger Berdymukhamedov worked in the state oil and gas sector, the foreign ministry and as an advisor to the country's United Nations mission in Geneva before taking up his seat.

Like Niyazov, who was known as the "Father of the Turkmen", Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is the beneficiary of a flourishing leadership cult that has seen both men honoured by golden statues in Ashgabat.