Business as Usual

You heard it here first. As predicted Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been sworn in as President of Turkmenistan.

The shocker: he only got 89.2% of the vote. The other five candidates were told to lose. I hope no one raised his head too far above the parapet and disappears tomorrow, never to be heard from again.

In Turkmenistan, there’s no dawdling about when it comes to assuming the reins of power. Moments after he was declared the winner, Berdymukhamedov was inaugurated. And in that unique Turkmen way, this was followed by gifts of bread and a quiver of arrows. Then a white carpet was laid out beneath his feet. They have a flair for the ceremonial in Ashgabat.

As I mentioned before, the West isn’t bothered about the fixed election. Turkmenistan has lots of exportable natural resources, especially natural gas. Since most of it goes to Gazprom, the largest company in Russia in which the Russian government has the largest stake, the West is especially keen to cozy up to the Turkmen. The is especially true given Gazprom’s tendency to hold European client countries hostage to price increases.

The West isn’t going to let a little thing like democracy stand in the way.  With no history or heritage of democratic politics in Turkmenistan, it’s probably not a bad idea to let these things happen gradually.


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