Offbeat

Turkmenistan’s President is the Real-Life ‘Dictator’

The president of Turkmenistan has a severe case of Sacha Baron Cohen-envy.

President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan may have just taken a page out of Sasha Baron Cohen's latest film. We'll explain. The president seems to have a bit of an identity crisis as of late. The authoritarian ruler of the once Soviet-ruled state has a Kim Jong-il mixed with Ataturk complex, choreographing events to make himself look a man of action, heroic figure all the while giving himself the nickname Arkadag ('Protector of the Turks'). So why would we report on this?

Well, his penchant for racing and cars has led him to go so far as to show up to the country's first-ever racing event this past weekend and politely ask to "take part" in the competition. The well-choreographed rouse was fairly apparent after he quickly set the best lap time and won the competition, making us recall this scene in the upcoming movie "The Dictator".

Berdymukhamedov apparently also has designs to build Turkmenistan into a racing powerhouse, as this was just the first event of many planned to change the image of the Central Asian country. It was also the latest in a line of publicity stunts meant to further the popular leader's image and grow his mythology, not unlike his predecessor. Saparmurat Niyazov, who passed away in 1996, was affectionately known as 'Turkmenbashi,' or father of all Turkmens. In any case, when you arrive to an event in the capital of Ashgabat, it doesn't hurt your image to be driving around in a bright green Bugatti Veyron.

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