Turkmenistan: Autocratic president gets a seat in parliament

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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan’s autocratic president has acquired a seat in parliament, a move seen as part of efforts to further tighten his already overwhelming control of the energy-rich Central Asian nation.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov became a member of the upper chamber of parliament in Sunday's balloting in which 231 electors from across the country filled 48 house seats. The election commission chief announced Berdymukhamedov's election in remarks carried Tuesday by the official daily Neutral Turkmenistan.

The vote follows last fall's constitutional reform that created a bicameral parliament. Berdymukhamedov, who will name another eight members of the upper house by decree, has hailed the vote as a “real manifestation of democracy.”

Foreign observers weren't invited to monitor the vote.

The 63-year-old Berdymukhamedov has established a pervasive cult of personality since becoming Turkmenistan’s leader in 2006.

Last month, he promoted his only son, Serdar, to be a deputy prime minister and also named him the head of the country’s state audit body and a member of the presidential Security Council.

Berdymukhamedov presides over the government and doesn’t have a prime minister, meaning that his son answers directly to him in his new position.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, who had previously served as a regional governor and then a Cabinet minister, is widely viewed as being groomed to succeed his father,

Turkmenistan’s economy is overwhelmingly dependent on exports of its vast natural gas reserves.

The Associated Press