Leadership Succession in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan: Between Stability and Instability

In: Central Asian Affairs
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In some countries, the death of an authoritarian leader raises concerns among political scientists, analysts and political decision-makers about subsequent instability. Informal mechanisms for regime change are seldom in place. Two recent transitions in Central Asia—Turkmenistan in 2006 and Uzbekistan in 2016—have shown that authority can be transferred calmly and peacefully. This paper examines the reasons for the stable transition process—and the factors governing it—in the two territories. It is my contention that three principal conditions have to be met in order to make the changeover relatively smooth: a lack of viable opponents, a narrow circle of people with real power and a common interest in maintaining stability, and a clearly designated new leader at the moment when the death of the incumbent is officially announced. At the same time, despite some similarities between the Turkmen and Uzbek cases, substantial differences also existed, making these two experiences—like other instances—case-specific and not necessarily applicable to other states in the region and beyond.

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