From the time of the late Perestroika and ending with the palace coup after Niyazov’s death, there could be no question of any legal political political pluralism. First, under the guise of a mandate from the CPSU Central Committee, and then by the presidential mandate, Niyazov clearly formulated his attitude to a multi-party system and democracy in general in one of his keynote speeches back in 1991, when he announced the launch of the 10 Years of Stability program. As follows from this program, virtually the entire legal basis for the existence of political pluralism was eliminated by the “verbal law” of the provisions voiced by Niyazov: “control over the media”, “immaturity of the Turkmen society for democracy”, and equating their opponents to “screamers and demagogues”, Niyazov simply made them marginalized and pariahs. Then, in the early 1990s, most of those who disagreed with Niyazov were representatives of the intelligentsia, who emerged on the wave of national democracy and used more nationalist slogans to oppose the authorities of the Union and the local party leaders. After the collapse of the USSR, their slogans and rhetoric very quickly adopted Niyazov, eventually turning them into an obscurantist version of nationalism, which knocked out the entire ideological basis of this wave of opposition. His flirtation with religious and national authorities generally left forever this field behind him. And the representatives of the opposition were forced one after another to leave the country. Perhaps this is where the story of the opposition itself in Turkmenistan ends, as a component of civil society.
The next stage was the transition to the opposition of disgraced officials from the entourage of Niyazov himself. It is possible to assess in different ways the motives of the parties to the conflict that led to the resignations, disgrace and the flight of officials into the “opposition”. But the fact remains that all significant figures of opposition groups and parties in the past stood alongside Niyazov and were loyal builders of both the independence of Turkmenistan and the personality cult of Niyazov. And it was they who subsequently identified as their goal personal confrontation with Niyazov as the main goal of the activities of the organizations they headed. All programs of their activities on the arrangement of the state initially had a secondary nature. Of course, Niyazov and the cult of personality created by him, along with voluntaristic methods of leading the country introduced into the system, have been and will remain the main irritant for a long time.
No one questions the qualifications or professional skills of the officials who went into the opposition, as well as their financial cleanliness (what Niyazov accused of being cut off after disgrace). We are talking about doubting them as independent politicians who are able not only to take short-term decisions, but to build a strategy, even in the highly narrowed framework of opposition organizations created (except for the maxims that after Niyazov everything will be different). Equally, such doubts relate to the presence of, no matter how serious, the political base within Turkmenistan. It simply does not exist, and really did not exist, no matter how much the opposition itself or any sensible citizen of Turkmenistan would like.
And because of this, they limited their influence to either a very narrow layer of the intelligentsia and / or bureaucracy, in the extreme case, a small coalition of families or clans to which they themselves belonged. Due to the nature of their origin and their own idea-fix, all without exception, opposition groups lost the meaning of their existence with the death of Niyazov, because they were aimed specifically at fighting him personally, as with a personal enemy.
The most authoritative figure in Turkmenistan among opposition figures was undoubtedly the first foreign minister, Avdy Kuliev, who passed away this year. Its authority was formed even in those times when voluntary resignation from a high post was considered extraordinary - in Turkmenistan only statehood was taking shape, and the presence in power was considered the most important capital. By virtue of his principles, Kuliev left the government, but because of his weakness as an independent politician, he could not form a program of his activities, regardless of the confrontation with Niyazov. The same trouble haunted all subsequent oppositionists, one after another they were serving abroad because of the persecution of the authorities and organized their own "opposition". The Shikhmuradov-Yklimov group went the next in creating the concepts of activity “after Niyazov”. But, having no experience of independent political activity, from the very beginning they broke the wood, having turned away most of their potential supporters in Turkmenistan. We are talking about the program of Shikhmuradov on the arrangement of Turkmenistan after the overthrow of Niyazov. It was assumed that after coming to power, the new dictators will carry out reforms, including the privatization of the oil and gas industry. And only then will they proceed to democratic reforms, including elections at all levels of government. It remained unclear in favor of whom privatization would be held before the elections and how this threatens the country's economy, including property rights. Shikhmuradov’s reputation among the population of Turkmenistan was buried by him before the “attempt” on Niyazov in 2002. Whatever actually happened then, even from the most cautious interpretations, it became clear that a group of former officials, their relatives tried to seize power. These events did not cause a serious reaction in society, but the reaction unfolded in the country, which destroyed all remnants of civil society. Along with the participants of the “attempt”, their relatives and friends suffered from leaders of public and religious organizations and dissidents.
In the wake of critics of repression and the entire regime, officials outside the country tried to “play” the opposition, including hoisting the slogans of democracy and human rights on the flag. But besides the colorful sites, speeches at OSCE conferences and several interviews, it did not matter. The most famous site “Gundogar”, created by Boris Shikhmuradov’s son Bayram, is in fact one of the most widely read (including by the authorities) and visited opposition sites. But to all observers familiar with the situation in Turkmenistan it is clear that a set of materials reprinted from other sources with rare analytical articles cannot in any way claim to be the mouthpiece of the opposition.
Over the past 5 years, not a single new figure has appeared in the camp of the opposition. Nor did any significant unification processes emerge, with the exception of accepting Bayram Shikhmuradov into the ranks of the Republican Party, consisting of four people. The unification of two prominent former opposition officials in exile Khanamov and Orazov following the death of Niyazov and the nomination of the latter by an alternative presidential candidate did not lead to anything, and the attempt to self-nominate itself could not cause anything but a smile.
Unfortunately, this is the end of all the public activities of the Turkmen opposition. In Turkmenistan, they know nothing about it and in its current form it is no longer interesting to anyone. But this does not mean at all that the people in Turkmenistan are so politically indifferent. Not at all! Just the opposition should be different.