Turkmen leader's son gets highly symbolic role

·1-min read
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov with an Akhal-Teke horse

The 39-year-old son of Turkmenistan's leader replaced him as head of the national horse association, state television reported Friday, paving the way for hereditary succession in the autocratic state.

The Akhal-Teke horse -- known for speed, endurance and a distinctive metallic sheen -- is an internationally admired Turkmen breed and a central theme of state propaganda, giving the association strong symbolic importance.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had appointed Serdar Berdymukhamedov to a number of top positions earlier this year, which for some observers suggests he is being groomed for the top job.

State television said the older Berdymukhamedov "proposed that (members) elect another worthy head" of the national horse association which he chaired for ten years.

The members chose Serdar Berdymukhamedov.

In February, the younger Berdymukhamadov received three promotions simultaneously, becoming deputy premier, a member of the powerful security council and the auditor general, making him the second most powerful figure in the country after his father.

Turkmenistan, a gas-rich former Soviet country of around 6 million people, is regularly cited by rights groups as one of the world's worst abusers of civic, religious and press freedoms.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 63, served as a personal dentist and then health minister to Turkmenistan's first post-independence ruler, Saparmurat Niyazov, before taking over the top job after Niyazov died in 2006.