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Secretive Turkmenistan speeds toward father-son power transfer

March snap election takes observers by surprise in rocky year for Central Asia

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov rides a horse in an Independence Day parade last September. He says it is time to transfer power to "young leaders."    © Reuters

ALMATY -- The next stage of Turkmenistan's dynastic power transition is underway, as long-term President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov prepares to hand the reins to his only son Serdar through a choreographed snap election called for March 12 -- two years ahead of schedule.

Serdar's candidacy was confirmed this week, days after his father -- known by the title Arkadag, "the Protector" -- told a meeting of the authoritarian and secretive Central Asian state's upper chamber of parliament that it was time to transfer power to "young leaders." The shift comes at an uneasy moment in the region, after protests swept Kazakhstan earlier this year.

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