“Mr. Burns, are you Ready?”


“Are you set?”


“Go, Mr. Burns.”

(3 seconds later the other participants react to the starting gun).

The above exchange between tyrannical owner Mr. Burns and his willing subaltern Waylon Smithers during the build up to the Father Son Sack Race held at the Springfield Power Plant’s annual picnic was the first thing brought to mind on hearing that Turkmen premier, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedow, had marked the country’s national Horse Day by ‘winning’ a race held to celebrate the Central Asian republic’s 29th April public holiday.

There are no independent reports to verify how close the race actually was, nor what the consequences would be for a fellow competitor should he decide to ride “off message” to victory over the autocratic former dentist. President Berdymukhamedow’s superior horsemanship could well have secured the race in his favour although such an exhibition of his prowess is redolent of an authoritarian displaying absolute power, to further strengthen his deification amongst a public he assumes is adoring. A more objective way to judge one’s own popularity with an electorate is to treat them as human beings that are able capable of making choices for themselves, instead of reining over them with an iron rod fashioned to terrorize.

Seeing the president as an impregnable being who can even win a horse race at a canter will further strengthen the hand of his state-sponsored public relations machine, although, really, apart from a privileged but brainwashed few, who in the end is really taken in by such irrelevancies that are given prominence over the real, everyday issues suffered by the majority of the population, privations to which the president and his inner circle will never be exposed.

So, Berdymukhamedow’s premiership, supposedly styled as being good for the country and its people, amounts to little more than an unopposed individual having free rein to force upon a country an ego constructed on the belief that he, and only he, can herald a new era of prosperity for the former Soviet republic. For those who queue for basic foodstuffs and at times await for the lights to come back on, such intimations that the citizens of Turkmenistan reside in a golden era have little truck.

Further reading and source material:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: http://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-horse-day-berdymukhammedov/28459995.html

YouTube – The Simpson’s Father Son Sack Race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBKwzOoT7N8