Dubya, take note…

Absolute rulers who claim a higher authority are not immune to being “called home” suddenly. And if no one’s there to take their place, and the contingency plan was scrapped by the ruler’s megalomania, well…just read this as a cautionary tale.

Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the Central Asian country for 21 years, has died aged 66, state TV has reported.

Mr Niyazov, who named cities and airports after himself in a personality cult, left no designated successor.

Turkmenistan, which has large gas reserves, now faces an uncertain future with rival groups and outside powers scrambling for influence, analysts say.

Mr Niyazov died at 0110 local time (2010 GMT Wednesday) of a heart attack.

Last month, the president publicly acknowledged he had heart disease.

His funeral is set to take place on 24 December in the capital, Ashgabat.

BBC correspondents quote witnesses as saying the capital has been quiet since the news broke, with many people staying at home, shocked and unsure of what may happen next.

Deputy Prime Minister Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been named head of the commission handling the funeral, state television said.

According to Turkmen law, the president is succeeded by the head of the legislative body, the People’s Assembly. But this post was held by Mr Niyazov himself.

Turkmenistan has called an emergency meeting of its highest representative body for 26 December to decide on Mr Niyazov’s succession, the government said.

Mr Berdymukhamedov has also been named acting head of state until then, according to government sources.

The real credit for the absence of chaos at this moment lies with the people of Turkmenistan, who I gather have no taste for riots and disorder. Given that most of them are poor despite the energy wealth of the country, it’s not so surprising, either–when you’ve got hardly anything, the inclination is to sit tight on what you do have until you know what’s coming next. And if anyone comes to take it away, THEN you fight–to the death.

Dubya, pay attention. This relates to you, whether you want it to or not. Iraq ringing any bells? How about Afghanistan? NO?

Oh, of course not…all-powerful Deciders never hear the bells. Even when they toll “time’s up for YOU, old boy”.

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