Monday, December 23, 2019

Arrests of Senior Officials Spark Rumors of Attempted Coup in Turkmenistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 21 – The arrest of the interior minister, the trade minister, and a prominent businessman earlier this month have touched off rumors that these and others were behind an attempted coup against Turkmenistan dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, rumors that have gained currency because of the economic crisis in that country.

            There is little reliable information about developments in that most closed of the post-Soviet states, but Maskat Saparmuradov, head of the Russian-Turkmen Friendship Society and an opposition figure, discounts the notion that there was any coup (приведет-ли-операция-«преемник»-к-клановым-войнам-в-туркменистане).

            Instead, he suggests, Berdimuhamedow is simply continuing to play one of the country’s clans off against another in order to preserve his position and possibly open the way for him to hand off power to his son, Serdar, a process that will destabilize the country and may open the way “sooner or later” for significant change.

            If the current dictator tries to impose his son on the country, that will lead to open opposition from members of other clans. As a result, Saparmuradov saysm, “the situation may pass out of control which would lead to fights within and among the clans for power.” That could result not in a coup but in a civil war.

            The opposition figure says that he and his supporters want to do everything to prevent such an outcome, are ready to work with those in the regime who want change, and are prepared to allow all the remaining political forces in Turkmenistan to form their own parties and take part in elections.

            Those around Berdimuhamedov “do not want to change anything” and think that with Serdar everything can continue as it has.  But the situation in the country will not allow that, at least not for long. The president’s son has no command of his own, and that means he could quickly lose control.

            According to Saparmuradov, “the peope ar afraid but they are ready for changes … They are waiting for them. We and the entire world see that there are no leaders in the country who could unite the people.” But for these changes to happen, the opposition most avoid violence because that would play into the hands of the existing dictatorship.

            The situation in the country is truly dire, he continues. Declining oil and gas prices have hit Ashgabat hard,” but “if one is honest, then unfortunately, he must concede that there is no economy” in the country which could allow it to come back from the food shortages and efforts of the population to flee.


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