Turkmenistan’s new President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has promised to honour existing energy contracts, in a speech at his swearing-in ceremony. The leader of the desert nation also said he would follow the course set by his predecessor – dictator Saparmoorat Niyahzoff.
Western nations had hoped the change in regime would bring about reforms. But human rights groups say the next government will most likely be just as strict. The former deputy Prime Minister unilaterally declared himself “acting” leader on his predecessor’s death, apparently with the military’s backing.
And independent observers have said the poll that elected him with a close to ninety percent majority was “not free and fair”. But the new President has vowed to improve education, and healthcare in the provinces, and support private enterprise.
His pledge to stand by bilateral natural gas agreements will please Moscow, which buys the gas at bargain basement prices. The result of lobbying by China to have a pipeline directed its way remains to be seen.