New Turkmen President Berdymukhammedov Moves to Consolidate Power

New Turkmen President Berdymukhammedov Moves to Consolidate Power

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has won a power struggle with officials of Turkmenistan's government who played key roles in building and maintaining the oppressive regime of his predecessor, and who helped bring the new president to power. It remains unclear, however, whether Berdymukhammedov intends to use his consolidated power to continue down the dictatorial path of former leader Saparmurat Niyazov, or to institute promised reforms.

The influential head of the presidential security service, Akmurad Rejepov, who served the late Niyazov loyally for nearly 20 years, was removed from office in mid-May. While Turkmenistan's state television said Rejepov was transferred to another job, other reports from the region claimed he had been arrested. Rejepov's son, Nurmurat Rejepov, who was a colonel in the Turkmen National Security, was also detained, according to the Russian Vremya Novostei newspaper.

When Berdymukhammedov came to power in late December, Turkmen watchers and opposition figures supposed that he was simply a figurehead for Rejepov. The head of the security service was actually the one who "practically seized power" after Niyazov's death, Batyr Mukhamedov, a Moscow-based member of the Turkmen opposition, told this reporter after Berdymukhammedov's inauguration in February.

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