ZURICH — Earlier this week and without much fanfare, power transferred hands in Turkmenistan. As regime changes go, this one was hardly revolutionary. Serdar Berdymukhamedov, son of Turkmenistan’s 65-year-old president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov — known, in the manner of a storybook superhero, as “The Protector” — won the election at a canter.
Along with the younger Mr. Berdymukhamedov — who, having recently turned 40, is now at the minimum age required for the presidency — eight other candidates appeared on the ballot. All were presidential loyalists, their presence ostensibly intended to feign competitiveness. Yet the young Mr. Berdymukhamedov won just 73 percent of the vote compared to his father’s 97 percent winning mandate in 2017.
The junior Mr. Berdymukhamedov is a surly technocrat who exudes a charisma-free image. His résumé reads like that of a fast-tracked corporate executive, with spells in the army, foreign office, energy ministry, a stint as counselor of embassy at the Turkmen Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and the governorship of Ahal Province. So far, so standard.
Yet there is still time for dictatorial eccentricities to emerge. The elder Mr. Berdymukhamedov would often appear at official events on horseback clad in elaborate coats and wearing fluffy white hats. On other occasions he would don garish tracksuits. In 2019 he recorded a workout video to teach law enforcement officials how to exercise.
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