Turkmen Leader Gives Himself Award

Turkmenistan's president awarded himself with a massive gold and diamond pendant and issued coins with his portrait to celebrate his 50th birthday

Turkmen Leader Gives Himself Award

State media reported Saturday, in an echo of lavish honors bestowed upon his autocratic predecessor. Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov decorated himself with the Motherland Order for his "outstanding achievements" -- a gold pendant bedecked with diamonds on a massive golden chain also lined with gems, the Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper said Saturday.

As part of the award, the leader received $20,000 as well as a 30 percent salary and pension increase. The report did not say how much the leader was making.

The government also issued a special edition of 200 gold and 200 silver commemorative coins worth 4 cents decorated with Berdymukhamedov's portrait, the paper reported.

"All my efforts are aimed at ensuring that Turkmens lead a decent life, that people don't need anything, that they are happy," Berdymukhamedov said at the award ceremony, according to the report.

The ex-Soviet Central Asian nation of 5 million has massive natural gas resources but is plagued by widespread poverty, with an average monthly salary of some $90.

The lavish awards echoed those received by Berdymukhamedov's predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the country for two decades with an iron fist. He cultivated a vast personality cult, quashed dissent and exercised sweeping control over Turkmen society. Niyazov had received 40 awards and also had issued coins with his portraits to celebrate his birthdays.

Berdymukhamedov has signaled limited changes and more openness but also has vowed to adhere largely to the authoritarian course set by Niyazov. 

AP 

Last Mod: 30 Haziran 2007, 14:54
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