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Turkmenistan: Election Spectacle Hides Disturbing Economic Decline

Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov sings for gas-sector workers in late January 2017 during the ostensible presidential election campaign. Turkmenistan’s car-racing, horse-riding, operation-performing, book-publishing and singing-songwriting president clearly likes to put on a show, but few spectacles would seem as pointless as the upcoming election that would extend his time in office. (Screenshot: Altyn Asyr via YouTube)

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov – Turkmenistan’s car-racing, horse-riding, operation-performing, book-publishing and singing-songwriting president – clearly likes to put on a show.
 
But few spectacles would seem as pointless as the upcoming presidential election that would extend Berdymukhamedov’s time in office. After all, Berdymukhamedov’s regime is widely considered one of the most repressive on earth. On the surface, his power appears so absolute that he has been able to turn groveling by bureaucrats into a new form of performance art.
 
All is not well in Berdymukhamedov’s world, however. What watchers of the region describe as the sham vote coming up on February 12 is masking some worrying and unpleasant realities for the government.
 

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Turkmenistan: Election Spectacle Hides Disturbing Economic Decline

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