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Turkmenistan’s president expands his father’s power

Turkmenistan’s president has appointed his father to lead the country’s newly formed supreme representative body, further expanding his clout in the gas-rich Central Asian nation.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 41, who was elected last March to succeed his father, Gurbanguly, named him the chairman of Halk Maslahaty, or People’s Council, 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 the “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 previously presided over it. On Saturday, the council was transformed into the supreme representative body.

The People’s Council isn’t elected and consists of top officials and representatives of regions, unions and public organizations. The parliament will be re-elected as one chamber in a vote scheduled for Thursday.

The revamped People’s Council has the power to change the country’s constitution and determine the main guidelines of domestic and foreign policies, giving the 65-year-old Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov powerful levers to shape the country’s course.

The elder Berdymukhamedov had ruled the isolated ex-Soviet country since 2006 following the death of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov, who led the desert nation as its Communist boss during the Soviet times and then as president after the 1991 collapse of the USSR, renamed the month of January after himself, required school children to study his writings and ordered citizens to call him “Turkmenbashi,” or The Father of All Turkmen.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov abolished Niyazov’s cult of personality and established one of his own, taking the title of Arkadag, or Protector, and demonstrating his physical fitness with stunts including driving sports cars, target shooting and hoisting a gold weightlifting bar to applause from his cabinet.

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

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