The oil industry is getting excited by the fact that power has changed hands for the first time in two decades in the authoritarian energy-rich state of Turkmenistan. Former dentist, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has taken the presidential oath in the capital.
The strategic importance of the event was underscored by the presence of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher as well as senior delegations from Iran and China at the ceremony.
However, human rights groups say that the jury is still out on whether the new President really spells a break with the past. “beginning the post-Niyazov era with a blatantly falsified election is not an encouraging sign,” said Michael Hall of the International Crisis Group.
The oil industry won’t care about human rights, but will be looking for access to the world’s fifth largest reserves of natural gas.