Son succeeds father as Turkmenistan’s new president

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 40-year old son of Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, attends a meeting in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in Aug. 21, 2021. People of Turkmenistan cast ballots Saturday March 12, 2022, in a vote intended to lay the foundation for a political dynasty in the gas-rich Central Asian nation. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 64, announced the vote last month, setting stage for his 40-year old son Serdar to take over. (AP Photo/Alexander Vershinin)

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — The son of Turkmenistan’s former president was inaugurated Saturday as the new leader of the authoritarian Central Asian country.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 40, took the oath of office a week after an election in which the central elections commission said he won 73% of the vote. He had faced eight other nominal contenders, all of whom praised his father, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who became president in 2006 and established a pervasive cult of personality.

The elder Berdymukhamedov announced his resignation last month and Serdar, who had been named to increasingly prominent government posts, most recently the Cabinet’s deputy chairman, was seen as his certain successor.

Turkmenistan, a nation of 6 million on the Caspian Sea, has long been difficult for outsiders to enter. It has not reported a single case of infection in the coronavirus pandemic, a situation questioned by medical experts. It also has struggled to diversify its economy, which is overwhelmingly dependent on vast natural gas reserves.

But the new president said at his inauguration that “We are open to all countries and peoples of the world and aim to develop trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian, scientific and educational ties with them in the future.”