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The president of Turkmenistan extends his father’s power

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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — The president of Turkmenistan has appointed his father to lead the country’s newly formed highest representative body, further expanding his influence in the gas-rich Central Asian country.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 41, who was elected last March to succeed his father, Gurbanguly, appointed him chairman of Halk Maslahaty, or Volksraad, late Saturday. State television showed 2,000 members of the council greeting the presidential order with a standing ovation.

The president also signed a law granting his father the title of “national leader of the Turkmen people”.

The elder Berdymukhamedov initiated the creation of the People’s Council as the upper house of parliament in 2021 and was previously its chairman. On Saturday, the council was transformed into the highest participation body.

The Volksraad is not elected and consists of top officials and representatives of regions, trade unions and public organisations. Parliament will be re-elected as a single chamber on Thursday.

The revamped People’s Council has the power to amend the country’s constitution and set key guidelines for domestic and foreign policy, giving 65-year-old Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov powerful levers to shape the country’s course.

The elder Berdymukhamedov has ruled the isolated ex-Soviet country since 2006 after the death of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov, who led the desert nation as its communist boss during the Soviet era and then as president after the collapse of the USSR in 1991, renamed the month of January after himself, demanded that schoolchildren study his writings and ordered citizens to call him “Turkmenbashi”. ‘, or the father of all Turkmens.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov abolished Niyazov’s cult of personality and established one himself. He took the title of Arkadag, or Protector, and demonstrated his physical fitness with stunts including driving sports cars, shooting at targets, and hoisting a gold weightlifting bar to the applause of his cabinet.

Turkmenistan’s economy is largely driven by its vast natural gas reserves, with China replacing Russia as the main customer.

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