|2nd President of Turkmenistan|
21 December 2006
Acting to 14 February 2007
|Preceded by||Saparmurat Niyazov|
|Leader of the Democratic Party|
21 December 2006 – 18 August 2013
Acting: 21 December 2006 – 4 August 2007
|Preceded by||Saparmurat Niyazov|
|Succeeded by||Kasymguly Babaev|
|Deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan|
1 March 2001 – 14 February 2007
|Preceded by||Yevgeny Zemskov|
|Succeeded by||Raşit Meredow|
|Born||Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow
(1957-06-29) 29 June 1957
Babarap, Turkmen SSR, Soviet Union
|Political party||Democratic (Before 2013)
|Alma mater||Turkmen State Medical Institute|
|Rank||General of the Army|
Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow[a][b][c][d] (born June 29, 1957) is a Turkmen politician who has served as the President of Turkmenistan since February 2007. Berdimuhamedow, a dentist by profession, served in the government under President Saparmurat Niyazov as Minister of Health beginning in 1997 and as Deputy Prime Minister beginning in 2001. He became Acting President following Niyazov’s death on 21 December 2006 and subsequently won the February 2007 presidential election. He faced no meaningful opposition in the vote and won by an overwhelming margin. In the February 2012 presidential election, he was re-elected with 97% of the vote. In the February 2017 presidential election, he was re-elected to a third term with 97% of the vote. Like his predecessor, Berdimuhamedow promotes a dictatorial personality cult in which he, his relatives, and associates enjoy unlimited power and total control over all aspects of public life. He uses the honorific title Arkadag, meaning “protector”.
Early years and private life
Berdimuhamedow was born on 29 June 1957 in Babarap, in what is now the Geok Tepe etrap (“district”) of Ahal Province, to Mälikguly Berdimuhametowyç Berdimuhamedow and Ogulabat Ataýewna Kürräýewa. He graduated from the Turkmen State Medical Institute in 1979 and entered a career in dentistry. He also received a PhD in medical sciences in Moscow. By 1992 he had become part of the dentistry faculty at the Medical Institute.
In 1995, during the rule of Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdimuhamedov became head of the dentistry center of the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry. He was appointed to the government as Minister of Health in 1997, and he was additionally appointed as Deputy Prime Minister in 2001. In April 2004, Niyazov suspended Berdimuhamedow’s salary for three months because healthcare workers were also not being paid.
The Health Ministry was responsible for carrying out Niyazov’s notorious order to close all hospitals outside of the capital city and major regional towns in 2005.
According to a cable from the U.S. embassy in Ashgabat, Berdimuhamedow is married and has two daughters and a son, but his wife lives in London. He has another daughter with his long-term Russian mistress. According to a biography of Berdimuhamedow’s father published in 2012, Berdimuhamedow has five sisters: Durdynabat (born 1960), Gulnabat (born 1962), Mähri (born 1964), Guljamal (born 1969), and Oguljamal (born 1974).
President of Türkmenistan
Following Niyazov’s death in December 2006, the State Security Council of Turkmenistan appointed Berdimuhamedow as acting president. The Council stated in its announcement that Öwezgeldi Ataýew, who, as the Chairman of the Assembly of Turkmenistan was to become the acting president, was not appointed “in view of the fact that the prosecutor-general had instituted criminal proceedings against him”.
Article 60 of the Turkmen Constitution stipulated that the acting president “may not stand for election to the Presidency”, which would have barred Berdimuhamedow from running in the 2007 presidential elections. However, on December 24, 2006, the People’s Council voted to remove this provision, making him eligible for the election as one of the six chosen candidates, all members of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan. Berdimuhamedov was supported by the political elite, and the official results showed him as winning 89% of the vote. In his first presidential trip abroad, Berdimuhamedov visited Saudi Arabia in mid-April 2007. There he performed the Umrah pilgrimage and met with King Abdullah. He then visited Russia and President Vladimir Putin at the end of the same month.
After taking office, Berdimuhamedow reversed several of Niyazov’s more eccentric policies. Internet cafés offering free and uncensored Web access opened in Ashgabat, compulsory education was extended from nine to ten years and classes in sports and foreign languages were re-introduced into the curriculum, and the government announced plans to open several specialized schools for the arts. President Berdimuhamedow has called for reform of education, health care and pension systems, and government officials of non-Turkmen ethnic origin who had been sacked by Niyazov were allowed to return to work. He also restored the pensions of 100,000 elderly people whose pensions Niyazov had slashed in the face of an unspecified budget crisis. Later on, he reopened the Turkmen Academy of Sciences, which had been closed by Niyazov.
Berdimuhamedow also took steps to curb the extensive personality cult surrounding his predecessor. He called for an end to the elaborate pageants of music and dancing that formerly greeted the president on his arrival anywhere, and said that the Turkmen “sacred oath”, part of which states that the speaker’s tongue should shrivel if he ever speaks ill of Turkmenistan or its president, should not be recited multiple times a day but reserved for “special occasions.” He also gave up his right to rename any landmarks, institutions, or cities. He also restored the traditional names of the months of the year and days of the week (Niyazov had renamed them after himself and his mother, among other things), and announced plans to move the infamous gold rotating statue of Niyazov from Ashgabat’s central square. However, in 2015 a giant golden statue of Berdimuhamedow riding a horse atop a white marble cliff was erected in Ashgabat. In 2008, he fired Akmyrat Rejepow, the longtime chief of the presidential security detail and one of the main proponents of Niyazov’s personality cult.
It initially appeared that Berdimuhamedow’s regime was more open than Niyazov’s. He eased travel restrictions and reopened libraries in rural areas. However, he explicitly ruled out any move toward Western-style democracy. In August 2013, Berdimuhamedow suspended his DPT membership for the duration of his presidency in order to remain above partisan politics and promote a multiparty system.
However, according to most international observers, he now leads one of the most oppressive and closed regimes in the world. Freedom House has consistently ranked Turkmenistan near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings ever since Berdimuhamedow took office; in 2017, for instance, the country was one of 11 with the lowest aggregate scores for political and civil rights. Human Rights Watch noted that Berdimuhamedow not only has complete control over public life, but presides over a regime that does not tolerate “alternative political or religious expression” and has complete control over the media. Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkmenistan near the bottom of its Press Freedom Index for most of Berdimuhamedow’s tenure. In 2017, for instance, it ranked Turkmenistan 178th out of 180 countries surveyed–ahead of only Eritrea and North Korea. Besides noting the government’s total control over the media, RSF noted that Internet access is heavily censored, and that satellite dishes–one of the few remaining ways to get independent news coverage–have been removed by government officials.
- 1994 – Star of President Order
- 2007 – United Arab Emirates : Order of Zayed
- 2007 – Uzbekistan : Order of Distinguished Service
- 2008 – Kazakhstan : Medal of the tenth anniversary of the capital city of Astana
- 2010 – Tajikistan : Order of Ismoili Somoni
- 2011 – Bahrain : Order of Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa
- 2012 – Turkey : First Class of the Order of the State of Republic of Turkey 
- 2013 – Serbia: Order of the Republic of Serbia
- 2016 – Moldova : Order of the Republic (Moldova)
Related: ethnicity nationalities visualizeus