Turkmenistan to hold polls after hints of succession plan

Election announced for March 12

Turkmenistan on Saturday announced a snap presidential election for March 12 after autocrat leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said he was ready to step down, with his son expected to succeed him.

A former dentist and Health Minister, the 64-year-old succeeded the country’s founding president Saparmurat Niyazov in December 2006 after his death and has ruled with an iron fist since.

Gas-rich Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, is one of the world’s most repressive, secretive states and little is known about how the regime makes day-to-day decisions.

Mr. Berdymukhamedov is its main face.

His 40-year-old son Serdar Berdymukhamedov is now the second most powerful government official with a broad purview over the economy as vice-premier.

‘Difficult decision’

In a speech in Parliament on Friday, Mr. Berdymukhamedov said he reached “a difficult decision” about his leadership because of his age, adding that the country needed “young leaders”, the state information service TDH reported.

Mr. Berdymukhamedov said he wished to remain in politics as chairman of Parliament’s upper chamber.

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