Politics of Turkmenistan
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Politics and government of
The politics of Turkmenistan takes place in the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Turkmenistan is both head of state and head of government. Turkmenistan has a single-party system, but has, according to the government, begun a transition towards a multi-party system. Turkmenistan is sometimes described as a "reclusive ex-Soviet nation".
Political background 
After 69 years as part of the Soviet Union (including 67 years as a union republic), Turkmenistan declared its independence on 27 October 1991.
President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a former bureaucrat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, ruled Turkmenistan from 1985, when he became head of the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR, until his death in 2006. He retained absolute control over the country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On 28 December 1999, Niyazov was declared President for Life of Turkmenistan by the Mejlis (parliament), which itself had taken office only a week earlier in elections that included only candidates hand-picked by President Niyazov; no opposition candidates were allowed.
The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan is the only one legally permitted. Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.
All citizens are required to carry internal passports, noting place of residence—a practice carried over from the Soviet era. Movement into and out of the country, as well as within its borders, is difficult. Turkmenistan is dominated by a pervasive cult of personality extolling the late president as Türkmenbaşy ("Leader of all Turkmen"), a title he assumed in 1993. His face adorns many everyday objects, from banknotes to bottles of vodka. The logo of Turkmen national television is his profile. The two books he has written are mandatory readings in schools and public servants are quizzed yearly about their knowledge of their contents. They are also common in shops and homes. Many institutions are named after his mother. All watches and clocks made must bear his portrait printed on the dial-face. A giant 15-meter (50 ft) tall gold-plated statue of him stands on a rotating pedestal in Ashgabat, so it will always face into the sun and shine light onto the city.
A slogan popular in Turkmen propaganda is "Halk! Watan! Türkmenbashi!" ("People! Motherland! Leader!") Niyazov renamed the days of the week after members of his family and wrote the new Turkmen national anthem/oath himself.
Foreign companies seeking to exploit Turkmenistan's vast natural gas resources cooperated with Niyazov since he also controlled access to the natural resources. His book, Ruhnama (or Rukhnama), which is revered in Turkmenistan almost like a holy text, has been translated into 32 languages and distributed for free among major international libraries . Niyazov once proclaimed that anyone who reads this book three times will "become more intelligent, will recognise the divine being and will go straight to heaven".
After Niyazov's death, deputy prime minister Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was named acting president, and was elected president in his own right on 11 February 2007 in elections condemned by international observers as fraudulent. On 20 March, in a decision of significant symbolical weight in the ongoing rejection of Niyazov's personality cult, he abolished the power of the president to rename any landmarks, institutions, or cities.
Since the death of Saparmurat Niyazov Turkmenistan's leadership made tentative moves to open up the country. Berdimuhamedow repealed some of Niyazov's most idiosyncratic policies, including banning opera and the circus for being "insufficiently Turkmen". In education, his government had increased basic education to 10 years from to nine years, and higher education had been extended from two years to five. He has also increased contacts with the West, which is eager for access to the country's natural gas riches - but fears were mounting that the government would revert to Niyazov's draconian style of rule.
The constitution provides for freedom of the press, but the government does not practice it. The government controls all media outlets. Only two newspapers, Adalat and Galkynysh, are nominally independent, but they were created by presidential decree. Cable TV, which had existed in the late 1980s, was shut down.
Activities of all but the officially recognized Russian Orthodox and Sunni Muslim faiths are severely limited. Religious congregations are required to register with the government, and individual parishes must have at least 500 members to register. Severe measures are directed toward religious sects that have not been able to establish official ties of state recognition, especially Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Hare Krishna, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Bahá'ís. Practitioners of these sects have allegedly been harassed, imprisoned, and/or tortured, according to some outside human rights advocacy groups.
Corruption continues to be pervasive. Power is concentrated in the president; the judiciary is wholly subservient to the regime, with all judges appointed for five-year terms by the president without legislative review. Little has been done to prosecute corrupt officials.
New Constitution in 2008 
In September 2008, the People's Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting a new Constitution. The latter resulted in the abolition of the Council and a significant increase in the size of Parliament in December 2008. The Constitution also enables the formation of multiple political parties. Pdt Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has stated that "The new constitution corresponds to all international and democratic norms".
Freedom of association 
Formally, according to the Constitution, citizens of Turkmenistan have the right to set up political parties and other public associations, acting within the framework of the Constitution and laws, and public associations and groups of citizens have the right to nominate their candidates in accordance with the election law.
Leaders of Turkmenistan since 1924 
Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1991) 
First Secretaries of the Turkmen Communist Party 
- Ivan Ivanovich Mezhlauk (19 November 1924–1926) (acting to 20 February 1925)
- Shaymardan Nurimanovich Ibragimov (June 1926–1927)
- Nikolay Paskutsky (1927–1928)
- Grigory Naumovich Aronshtam (11 May 1928 – August 1930)
- Yakov Abramovich Popok (August 1930 – 15 April 1937)
- Anna Mukhamedova (April – October 1937) (acting)
- Yakov Abramovich Chubin (October 1937 – November 1939)
- Mikhail Mikhaylovich Fonin (November 1939 – March 1947)
- Shadzha Batyrovich Batyrov (March 1947 – July 1951)
- Sukhan Babayevich Babayev (July 1951 – 14 December 1958)
- Dzhuma Durdy Karayev (14 December 1958 – 4 May 1960)
- Balysh Ovezovich Ovezov (13 June 1960 – 24 December 1969)
- Muhammetnazar Gapurowiç Gapurow (24 December 1969 – 21 December 1985)
- Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow (21 December 1985 – 16 December 1991)
Chairmen of the Revolutionary Committee 
- Kaikhaziz Sardarovich Atabayev (October 1924 – December 1924)
- Nedirbay Aytakov (December 1920 – February 1925)
Chairmen of the Central Executive Committee 
- Nedirbay Aytakov (20 February 1925 – 21 July 1937)
- Batyr Atayev (acting) (August 1937 – October 1937)
- Khivali Babayev (October 1937 – 24 July 1938)
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet 
- Alla Berdy Berdiyev (24 July 1938 – 27 July 1938)
Chairmen of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet 
- Khivali Babayev (27 July 1938–1941)
- Alla Berdy Berdieyv (1941 – 6 March 1948)
- Akmamed Sariyev (6 March 1948 – 30 March 1959)
- Nurberdy Bairamov (30 March 1959 – 26 March 1963)
- Annamukhamed Klychev (26 March 1963 – 15 December 1978)
- Bally Yazkuliyevich Yazkuliyev (15 December 1978 – 13 August 1988)
- Roza Atamuradovna Bazarova (13 August 1988 – 19 January 1990)
- Manukhmaned Basku Salloumenichov (19 January 1990 – 21 January 1990)
- Alekhmangulabad Alizhkhamedievich Khadivmindechov (21 January 1990 early afternoon – 21 January 1990 evening)
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet 
- Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov (19 January 1990 – 2 November 1990)
Republic of Turkmenistan (1991–present) 
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- Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow (2 November 1990 – 21 December 2006) (from 22 October 1993 Türkmenbaşy)
- Gurbanguly Mälikguliýewiç Berdimuhamedow (21 December 2006 – present) (acting until 14 February 2007)
List of Heads of Government of Turkmenistan (1925–1991) 
Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1991) 
Chairmen of the Council of People's Commissars 
- Kaikhaziz Sardarovich Atabayev (20 February 1925 – 8 July 1937)
- Aitbay Khudaybergenov (October 1937 – 17 October 1945)
- Sukhan Babayevich Babayev (17 October 1945 – 15 March 1946)
Chairmen of the Council of Ministers 
- Sukhan Babayevich Babayev (15 March 1946 – 14 July 1951)
- Balysh Ovezovich Ovezov (14 July 1951 – 14 January 1958) (first time)
- Dzhuma Durdy Karayev (14 January 1958 – 20 January 1959)
- Balysh Ovezovich Ovezov (20 January 1959 – 13 June 1960) (second time)
- Abdy Annaliyevich Annaliyev (13 June 1960 – 26 March 1963)
- Muhammetnazar Gapurowiç Gapurow (26 March 1963 – 25 December 1969)
- Oraz Nazarowiç Orazmuhammedow (25 December 1969 – 17 December 1975)
- Bally Yazkuliyevich Yazkuliyev (17 December 1975 – 15 December 1978)
- Chary Soyunovich Karriyev (15 December 1978 – 26 March 1985)
- Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow (26 March 1985 – 4 January 1986)
- Annamurat Hojamyradowiç Hojamyradow (4 January 1986 – 17 November 1989)
- Han Ahmedowiç Ahmedow (5 December 1989 – 18 May 1992)
Under the 1992 constitution, the president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term. Niyazov added the post of chairman of the Supreme Soviet in January 1990, and was elected as the country's first president that October. He was the only candidate in Turkmenistan's first presidential elections in 1992. A 1994 plebiscite extended his term to 2002, and Parliament extended his term indefinitely in 1999.
After the death of Niyazov, Deputy Prime Minister Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow took over, despite the fact that Öwezgeldi Ataýew, the Chairman of the Parliament of Turkmenistan, would be the next in line in the order of succession (allegedly because the prosecutor-general had initiated investigations against Ataýew). The president appoints the deputy chairmen of the cabinet of ministers.
A presidential election to replace Niyazov was held on 11 February 2007.
Legislative branch 
|This article is outdated. (August 2010)|
Under the 1992 constitution, there are two parliamentary bodies, a unicameral People's Council or Halk Maslahaty (supreme legislative body of up to 2,500 delegates, some of whom are elected by popular vote and some of whom are appointed; meets at least yearly) and a unicameral Assembly or Mejlis (50 seats, scheduled to be increased to 65, whose members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms).
Elections: People's Council – last held in April 2003 (next to be held December 2008); Mejlis – last held 19 December 2004 (next to be held December 2008). Election results: Mejlis – DPT 100%; seats by party – DPT 50; note – all 50 elected officials are members of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan and are preapproved by President Niyazov.
In late 2003 a new law was adopted reducing the powers of the Mejlis and making the Halk Maslahaty the supreme legislative organ. The Halk Maslahaty can now legally dissolve the Mejlis, and the president is now able to participate in the Mejlis as its supreme leader; the Mejlis can no longer adopt or amend the constitution, or announce referendums or its elections. Since the president is both the "Chairman for Life" of the Halk Maslahaty and the supreme leader of the Mejlis, the 2003 law has the effect of making him the sole authority of both the executive and legislative branches of government.
Political parties and elections 
|Total (turnout 95 %)|
|Democratic Party of Turkmenistan||50|
|Total (turnout 76.9 %)||50|
|Democratic Party of Turkmenistan||2507|
|Total (turnout 65 %)||2507|
Turkmenistan was until recently a single-party state wherein only the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (Türkmenistanyň Demokratik partiýasynyň) was legally allowed to contest elections. Opposition parties are now legally allowed to form following the adoption of the new Constitution.
There have been political parties and opposition groups in the past—a group named Agzybirlik (Unity) was banned in January 1990. Its members formed the Party for Democratic Development which was itself banned in 1991. This led a coalition for democratic reform named Gengesh (Conference).
The latest opposition party operates in exile and is named The Republican Party of Turkmenistan (Türkmenistanyň Respublikan partiýasynyň). Since all opposition was banned within Turkmenistan, it was forced to form and operate from abroad.
In November 2009, state media in Turkmenistan published the names of candidates running in the parliamentary election that authorities described as a step toward democracy.
Administrative divisions 
Turkmenistan is divided into five provinces welayatlar (singular – welayat): Ahal Province (Aşgabat), Balkan Province (Balkanabat, formerly Nebitdag), Daşoguz Province (formerly Tashauz), Lebap Province (formerly Charjou Province) (Turkmenabat, formerly Charjou), Mary Province
Foreign policy 
Foreign policy of Turkmenistan is based on the status of permanent positive neutrality recognized by the UN General Assembly Resolution on Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan on 12 December 1995. Articles on Turkmenistan's foreign policy as a neutral state:
- Regional Strategy of Ashgabat
- Neutral Factor of Turkmenistan
- The World Recognized Turkmenistan's Neutrality 9 Years Ago
International organization participation 
Turkmenistan is affiliated to the CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTO (observer)
See also 
- "Turkmenistan takes reformist step", BBC, 26 September 2008
- "Turkmenistan publishes names of candidates"
- [dead link]
- Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly: Maintenance of International Security and Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan (pdf). United Nations General Assembly. 90th Plenary Meeting. 11 January 1996.
- "Eye on Image, Turkmenistan Overhauls Laws". Reuters. The New York Times. 26 September 2008.
- CIA The World Factbook
- Mail Foreign Service (19 February 2010). "Turkmenistan to allow creation of second political party". Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 February 2010.