Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The rise of Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Here's the follow-up to my post from yesterday on Sunday's Turkmen presidential election. Go there for context, background, links, and images.

The results are in. And they're what we expected.

Acting President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov (there are alternate spellings of his names) won the election with over 89 percent of the vote. (The updated Wikipedia entry, including useful references at the bottom of the page, is here.)

How's that for mock democracy? This was about as farcical and corrupt an election as it gets.

And the Turkmen people now get a fool to carry on Niyazov's authoritarianism.

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But don't expect much in the way of meaningful criticism from the West.

As the BBC is reporting (link above), today's inauguration was attended by "senior diplomats from around Central Asia and the world, including Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher". Their presence provides Berdymukhamedov with just the sort of legitimacy, both domestic and international, that the farcical, corrupt, and quite likely rigged election does not.

And whatever noble rhetoric about freedom and democracy emanates from the shallow idealism of our leaders, what really matters here are Turkmenistan's huge natural gas reserves and its strategic location -- Iran to the south, Afghanistan to the south-east, the other 'Stans to the north and east, China not too far away. It may be a North Korea-like tyranny, but our principles are no match for our self-interest -- such is the power of amoral realism in geopolitics.

The oppression of the Turkmen people goes on. And we, not caring much at all, enable that oppression for the price of access to gas and a foothold in Central Asia.

Understandable, perhaps, but shameful.

[Creature's Note: Michael's words, my cut-and-paste. Ignore all references to me below.]

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