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Turkmenistan's Example Of Stability In Central Asia

Monday, November 7, 2016 - 05:32

The death of President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov literally caused a flurry of comments of experts of different caliber, who were almost unanimously expressing concerns about the future of both the country and the entire Central Asian region. There were expressed opinions that contained varying degrees of concern regarding the possible exacerbation of the struggle between clans for power in Tashkent. That would threaten regional security, considering the information available about the penetration of radical Islam in Central Asia.


However, Central Asia has already witnessed a case where a so-called “president for life” died. It's about Turkmenistan, where in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov died a sudden death after his almost 20-year-long reign.


Turkmenistan's case is remarkable exactly because of the fact that in 2006 there actually rose the same question that Uzbekistan faced recently, “What will happen next?” No one knew whether the political establishment of Turkmenistan will be able to cope with the disappearance of the key cog of the entire system of public administration. As it turned out, shortly before the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, a considerable part of the powers was transferred to the Security Council. In fact, this predetermined the subsequent events, because the Security Council was able to settle all the questions about the successor, and it was the Security Council that choose Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov as the new head of state. Moreover, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who was the Minister of Health at the moment, perfectly fit into the system and was able to assess the situation very competently. During the first few years, there were canceled some of the most notorious decrees of the previous president; he also tried to introduce a few democratic moments into the political life of Turkmenistan. In all other aspects, the state system continued to work just fine, although initially it was believed that everything was built around one person, without whom the state would face a long period of crisis, if not a collapse.


It also turned out that the socio-economic condition of the society, which could theoretically cause some instability following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, does not play a big role in the sentiment among the population and among the country's leadership. The Turkmen society is the most indifferent to the political processes occurring in the country. Of course, the Ashgabat regime is known for its original total control over all spheres of life of the Turkmen society. There are periodic repressions. However, since 2006, the official Ashgabat gave the go-ahead for development of the media that are critical to the central government. There have emerged the formal signs of a democratic state. However, even with the weakening of the regime, an incredibly small (less than 1 percent) share of the population manifests a civic stance and tries to play the role of the opposition that is necessary for a healthy political competition. Moreover, as shown by a number of relatively outdated surveys, Turkmen people do not show any emotion in relation to either the President or any other individual in the country. The political absenteeism in Turkmenistan has actually been the main factor in establishment of an authoritarian rule. In addition to this, Ashgabat has the opportunities to utilize the carbon-hydrogen resources of Turkmenistan in order to maintain a relatively tolerable minimum standard of living in the country. Due to this, virtually no one clan or another group of the Turkmen society has a desire to change anything in the country.


As a result, the main threat to stability in Turkmenistan is of external rather than internal nature. Namely, the main threat is the possible attempts of Islamists in the face of the Taliban, the Islamic State, or other terrorist groups. The mechanism of inheritance of power and the continuity of policy have partially been perfected in the Central Asian republics A particularly vivid example is the situation in Uzbekistan, where no signs of instability have been noticed.

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