Integrating domestic politics and foreign policy making: the role of legitimacy in the process of autocratic regime consolidation
Jardine, Bradley James
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Turkmenistan remains the least studied country of the former Soviet Union despite its highly strategic - and often volatile - Afghan and Iranian borders. Its obscurity is even more remarkable considering both its vast hydrocarbon reserves - thought to be the world’s fourth largest - and promising transit potential. This thesis claims that Turkmenistan’s regime transition in February 2007 is a strong case-study for understanding the role “legitimacy” plays in the process of regime consolidation. The research explores the evolution of Berdimuhamedow’s administration as a multi-level process, with carefully calibrated domestic reforms providing a vital source of domestic and international legitimacy. The primary vehicles for achieving these aims were the “Doctrine of Positive Neutrality,” and the “Great Renaissance” which act as vague rhetorical vessels for the advancement of state propaganda. The focus of the study is thus symbolic, rather than performative legitimacy. The study’s core arguments are (1) that the international spread of liberal democratic values creates opportunities for autocratic regimes to display low-cost legitimating commitments to these norms; and (2) that regimes unconstrained by domestic opposition are prone to a more extreme decoupling of rhetorical commitments from implementation. The claims put forward in this paper counteract the traditional democratization thesis by contending that in Central Asia, autocratic regimes borrow the form – but not the substance – of liberal democratic states, granting them substantial durability. The study provides extensive qualitative analysis of Turkmen propaganda and official policy statements to provide supporting evidence for these claims. Key Words: Legitimacy; Neutrality; Consolidation; Regime transition; Political reform; Democratization; Turkmenistan; Central Asia; Nation-building.