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Politics of Turkmenistan

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Politics of Turkmenistan

This article is part of a series on the
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 multi-party system.[1] Turkmenistan is sometimes described as a "reclusive ex-Soviet nation".[2]

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 the Mejlis (parliament) declared Niyazov President for Life. (The Mejlis itself had taken office only a week earlier in elections that included only candidates hand-picked by President Niyazov; no opposition candidates were allowed.)

Ashgabat assembly building

Prior to 2008 the authorities permitted only a single political party, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan. Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.

All citizens must 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 Niyazov 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 Niyazov's 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 Niyazov 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, 2001 and 2004), which is revered in Turkmenistan almost like a holy text, has been translated into 41 languages[3] as of 2008 and distributed for free among major international libraries. [4] 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".[5]

After Niyazov's death, deputy prime minister Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow became 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.

After 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 increased basic education from 9 years to 10 years, and extended higher education 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 television, which existed in the late 1980s, was shut down.

Turkmen authorities restrict the activities of all but the officially recognized Russian Orthodox and Sunni Muslim faiths. Religious congregations must register with the government, and individual parishes must have at least 500 members to register. Severe measures deal with 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 presidency; the judiciary is wholly subservient to the régime, with all judges appointed for five-year terms by the president without legislative review. Little has been done to prosecute corrupt officials.

The United Nations General Assembly recognized and supported Turkmenistan's "status of permanent neutrality" on 11 January 1996.[6]

New constitution of 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. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has stated that "The new constitution corresponds to all international and democratic norms".[1][7]

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 the laws, and public associations and groups of citizens have the right to nominate their candidates in accordance with the election law.

Current Members of the Cabinet of Ministers

Office Incumbent Since
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedow 2007
Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Rasit Meredow 2007
Deputy Prime Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Annageldi Yazmyradov 2012
Deputy Prime Minister for Construction Samuhammet Durdylyyev 2013
Deputy Prime Minister for Economy and Finance Annamuhammet Gocyyev 2011
Deputy Prime Minister for Education, Health and Tourism Sapardurdy Toylyyev 2011
Deputy Prime Minister for Transport and Communication Satlyk Satlykov 2013
Deputy Prime Minister for Industry and Textiles Babanyyaz Italmazov 2013
Deputy Prime Minister for Culture and Media Bagul Nurmyradova 2012
Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Gas Baymyrat Hojamuhammedov 2009
Deputy Prime Minister for Trade Palvan Taganov 2013

Leaders of Turkmenistan since 1924

Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1991)

First Secretaries of the Turkmen Communist Party

Chairmen of the Revolutionary Committee

Chairmen of the Central Executive Committee

Chairman of the Supreme Soviet

Chairmen of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet

Chairman of the Supreme Soviet


List of Heads of Government of Turkmenistan (1925–1991)

Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1991)

Chairmen of the Council of People's Commissars

Chairmen of the Council of Ministers

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

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.[8]

Political parties and elections

 Summary of the 11 February 2007 Turkmenistan presidential Election results
Candidates Votes %
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow 2,357,120 89.23
Amanýaz Atajykow 85,016 3.23
Işanguly Nuryýew 62,830 2.38
Muhammetnazar Gurbanow 62,672 2.37
Orazmyrat Garajaýew 40,821 1.55
Aşyrnyýaz Pomanow 34,733 1.31
Total (turnout 95 %)    
 Summary of the 19 December 2004 Mejlis of Turkmenistan election results
Party Seats
Democratic Party of Turkmenistan 50
Total (turnout 76.9 %) 50
 Summary of the 7 April 2003 People's Council of Turkmenistan election results
Party Seats
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.[9]

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 WTO (observer)

See also


  1. ^ a b "Turkmenistan takes reformist step", BBC, 26 September 2008
  2. ^ "Turkmenistan publishes names of candidates"
  3. ^ Moring, Kirsikka (2008-02-29). "The deadly watchful eye of Turkmenistan's holy book". Helsingin Sanomat (INternational Edition - Foreign ed.) (Helsinki). Retrieved 2014-04-29. Companies are required to collaborate in the personality cult. This is why Ruhnama, "The Book of Souls" written by the now dead dictator Sarparmurat Nijazov, has to be translated into the language of the company's country of origin as a way of closing a deal. [...] The book praising the dictator has been translated into 41 different languages. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ 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. (Dead Link)
  7. ^ "Eye on Image, Turkmenistan Overhauls Laws". Reuters. The New York Times. 26 September 2008.
  8. ^ CIA The World Factbook
  9. ^ Mail Foreign Service (19 February 2010). "Turkmenistan to allow creation of second political party".  

External links

  • Republican Party of Turkmenistan
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