RFL/RL seem to be amongst the first to provide comment on the implications of the sudden death of Turkmenistan's president Saparmurat Niyazov - Turkmenbashi. Their analyst Daniel Kimmage believes his death could lead to some political instability in the country, and also to a power struggle.
"Turkmenistan occupies an important position within Central Asia as a major supplier of natural gas; natural gas that plays an important role for Russia, natural gas that is part of the general system that includes a European supply of gas. So there are major potential implications, for example, if there would be political instability in Turkmenistan it would affect the shipments of natural gas. It could have a far-reaching domino effect that could reach Europe. So there are many possible implications both on a regional level -- where it reminds us that these are not inherently, terribly stable political systems. To the international geopolitical level it touches on a great level the energy-security questions."
Other reports are not optimistic either, including this one entitled: "Turkmenistan on the threshold of war"
A few quotes:
"There is no obvious leader or political force to take over the running of the country. Opposition leaders have dissappeared, or fled the country.
In July, 2006 President Niyazov delegated powers to carry out negotiations at state level to his son Murad, whose political career he had terminated at one time. Murad was even forbidden to live in Turkmenistan. He obtained citizenship of the Russian Federation, and since 1993 has been engaged in business in Moscow - construction of hotels, trade in Astrakhan furs and cotton, and also the sale of Turkmen gas. He is married to Victoria Gogoleva, a native of Odessa.
Murad Niyazov does not possess the charisma of his father or the power to allow him to take over the position of president in a peaceful manner. He has been associated with a series of scandals revealing a chaotic lifestyle, e.g, the loss in the Spanish casino in 1998 of $12 million. The only thing he has got going for him is the Eastern tradition of continuity.
The future of Turkmenistan is generally perceived as being gloomy. The significant resources which Turkmenistan possesses will cause the fierce struggle for the control over them.
The absence of national leaders could lead to a decentralization of the country and to an increase in the role of regional clans in the government, i.e. to a situation similar to that which exists in Afghanistan [Yikes!] and which could lead to armed conflicts and civil war in Turkmenistan."
Turkmenistan presently supplies about one half of Ukraine's gas requirements via the infamous monopolist middleman 'RosUkrEnergo'.
Putin and Yushchenko will have plenty to talk about tomorrow - Turkmen gas supplies will be top of the list.