Crossroads Asia | Politics | Central Asia

Small Shuffles in the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers

Mere weeks after reappointing his father’s cabinet, the younger Berdimuhamedov has begun to make some personnel changes.

Small Shuffles in the Turkmen Cabinet of Ministers
Credit: Pixabay

Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov dismissed the internal affairs minister and abolished the post of deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers for security, military, and legal affairs during a recent State Security Council meeting. The changes come mere weeks after Berdimuhamedov took over the presidency from his father, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, and the March 25 reappointment of most his father’s cabinet to their posts.

RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service highlighted the fact that these personnel changes were made while the elder Berdimuhamedov, known as Arkadag (“protector”), was on vacation (which he reportedly requested permission for on March 25 from his president-son). The elder Berdimuhamedov remains chairman of the Halk Maslahaty (the People’s Council), the upper chamber of the Turkmen parliament which has seen extensive evolution (including being abolished in 2008) in the country’s 30 years of independence. As Rustam Muhamedov wrote in a May 2021 article for The Diplomat after the council’s first-ever elections and the surprising election of then-President Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov to the body and to its chair:

Now as the chairman of the upper (and functionally more important) chamber of the parliament, Berdimuhamedov once again follows his predecessor’s footsteps, gaining full control over both the executive and legislative branches…

Hence, whatever the succession scenario is, it definitely entails him remaining in a strong authoritative position. 

But Arkadag is on vacation, so although Turkmen state media say the recent shuffles were approved by the Halk Maslakhaty, it’s not clear if the former president approved the changes before unplugging to work on his next book or not.

After taking office on March 19, a week after a snap presidential election that lacked genuine competition, Serdar dissolved his father’s government. On March 25, however, he reappointed almost the entire Cabinet of Ministers, with the only new appointment being Muhammetguly Mukhammedov to Berdimuhamedov’s previous post as deputy chairman for economy and finance. 

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The April 6 changes, therefore, represent the first government shuffles under the new Berdimuhamedov.

Berdimuhamedov decided to keep Begench Gundogdyev on as minister of defense, granting him the additional post of secretary of the State Security Council. The secretary post had been held by Charymurat Amanov since 2000. Amanov’s position as deputy chairman for security was abolished in the April 6 meeting. He’d had been reprimanded by the elder Berdimuhamedov in July 2021 but in abolishing his job, the younger Berdimuhamedov did not issue a separate reprimand. State media reported that Amanov was dismissed from the secretary post in connection with a transfer to another job. Amanov, like many cabinet figures, has held various positions over the year, suffering reprimands and reassignments at the president’s whim over the years.

President Berdimuhamedov saved his April reprimands for Ovezdurdy Khojaniyazov, who had served as minister of internal affairs for nine months. Berdimuhamedov said there were “shortcomings” during his leadership of the ministry, among them, “improper control over public order, traffic safety as well as activity of local representatives of the police.” (The state news report on the meeting includes an extensive section detailing specific traffic violations). The president replaced Khojaniyazov with Mukhammet Khydyrov, previously the head of the Lebap police department.

Among the cabinet, an important figure to watch is Foreign Minister Rasit Meredow, who has been in that post since 2001. He was made the top deputy chairman of the cabinet in 2007, a position sometimes referred to as “first vice president,” after its previous holder, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, became president following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov. There has been some rumor-mongering that Meredow would be replaced by the new president, but that has not come to pass yet.

With few avenues to observe the dynamics of Turkmen politics, what we can see are the surface ripples: who is appointed to what positions, who is reprimanded in public, and who hangs onto their seats.