Politics of Turkmenistan
Politics of Turkmenistan
The politics of Turkmenistan nominally takes place in the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President of Turkmenistan is nominally both head of state and head of government. However, as of 21 January 2023 a "national leader" was appointed who chairs an independent People's Council (viz.) with authority to amend the constitution, and who exercises supreme political authority. No true opposition parties are allowed; every registered political party supports the third and current President Serdar Berdimuhamedow. The country is frequently described as a totalitarian state.
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 ruled with totalitarian 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.)
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 ("Head Turkmen"), a title he assumed in 1993. His face adorned many everyday objects, from banknotes to bottles of vodka. The logo of Turkmen national television was his profile. The two books he wrote were mandatory reading in schools, and public servants were quizzed yearly about their knowledge of their contents. They were also common in shops and homes. Many institutions were named after Niyazov's mother. All watches and clocks made had to bear his portrait printed on the dial-face. A giant 15-meter (50 ft) tall gold-plated statue of Niyazov stood on a rotating pedestal in Ashgabat, so it would always face the sun and shine light onto the city.
A slogan popular in Turkmen propaganda was "Halk! Watan! Türkmenbashy!" ("People! Motherland! Head of Turkmen!"). 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 was revered in Turkmenistan almost like a holy text, has been translated into 41 languages as of 2008[update] 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 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 symbolic 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 restored 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 effectively controls all media outlets. Only two newspapers, AdalatInfoabad and Arzuw, are nominally independent. Cable television, which existed in the late 1980s, was shut down. Access to foreign media is impeded by internet blockage of roughly one third of the world's IP addresses and a ban on use of virtual private networks.and Galkynyş , both created by presidential decree, and two private internet news portals,
Turkmen authorities restrict the activities of all but the officially recognized Russian Orthodox and Sunni Islam 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 Baháʼís. Practitioners of these sects have allegedly been harassed, imprisoned, and/or tortured, according to some[which?] foreign 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. With regard to the legal profession, while law practice may be conducted in Turkmenistan in assorted ways (collegium of lawyers, lawyers' association, private practice, etc.), there is no clear indication as to how certain demographic groups, such as women, have fared in the field.
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".
National Leader appointed 2023
As of 21 January 2023 President Serdar Berdimuhamedow appointed his father and predecessor, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, chairperson of the reformed People's Council of Turkmenistan with the title "National Leader of the Turkmen People" (Turkmen: türkmen halkynyň Milli Lideri). State media referred to the People's Council as the "supreme organ of government authority". Outside observers consider that the presidency has been stripped of all real authority so that it can be transferred to the National Leader, who is now the genuine chief executive of government. One commentator stated that this makes Turkmenistan an "absolute monarchy."
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
Leaders of Turkmenistan since 1924
Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1991)
First secretaries of the Turkmen Communist Party
- Ivan Mezhlauk (19 November 1924 – 1926) (acting to 20 February 1925)
- Shaymardan Ibragimov (June 1926 – 1927)
- Nikolay Paskutsky (1927–1928)
- Grigory Aronshtam (11 May 1928 – August 1930)
- Yakov Popok (August 1930 – 15 April 1937)
- Anna Muhamedov (April – October 1937) (acting)
- Yakov Chubin (October 1937 – November 1939)
- Mikhail Fonin (November 1939 – March 1947)
- Shaja Batyrov (March 1947 – July 1951)
- Suhan Babayev (July 1951 – 14 December 1958)
- Jumadurdy Karayev (14 December 1958 – 4 May 1960)
- Balysh Ovezov (13 June 1960 – 24 December 1969)
- Muhammetnazar Gapurow (24 December 1969 – 21 December 1985)
- Saparmurat Niyazov (21 December 1985 – 16 December 1991)
Chairmen of the Revolutionary Committee
Chairmen of the Central Executive Committee
- Nedirbay Aytakov (20 February 1925 – 21 July 1937)
- Batyr Ataýew (acting) (August 1937 – October 1937)
- Hyvaly Babaýew (October 1937 – 24 July 1938)
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet
- Allaberdi Berdiyev (24 July 1938 – 27 July 1938)
Chairmen of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
- Hyvaly Babayev (27 July 1938 – 1941)
- Allaberdi Berdiyev (1941 – 6 March 1948)
- Akmamed Saryyev (6 March 1948 – 30 March 1959)
- Nurberdi Bayramov (30 March 1959 – 26 March 1963)
- Annamuhamet Gylyjow (26 March 1963 – 15 December 1978)
- Bally Ýazgulyýevyç Ýazgulyýew (15 December 1978 – 13 August 1988)
- Roza Atamuradovna Bazarova (13 August 1988 – 19 January 1990)
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet
- Saparmurat Niyazov (19 January 1990 – 2 November 1990)
- Saparmurat Niyazov (2 November 1990 – 21 December 2006) (from 22 October 1993 Türkmenbaşy)
- Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (21 December 2006 – 19 March 2022) (acting until 14 February 2007)
- Serdar Berdimuhamedow (19 March 2022 – present)
- Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (21 January 2023 - present)
List of heads of government of Turkmenistan (1925–1991)
Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic (1924–1991)
Chairmen of the Council of People's Commissars
- Gaygysyz Atabayev (20 February 1925 – 8 July 1937)
- Aitbaý Hudaýbergenow (October 1937 – 17 October 1945)
- Suhan Babayev (17 October 1945 – 15 March 1946)
Chairmen of the Council of Ministers
- Suhan Babayev (15 March 1946 – 14 July 1951)
- Balysh Ovezov (14 July 1951 – 14 January 1958) (first time)
- Jumadurdy Karayev (14 January 1958 – 20 January 1959)
- Balysh Ovezov (20 January 1959 – 13 June 1960) (second time)
- Abdy Annalyýewyç Annalyýew (13 June 1960 – 26 March 1963)
- Muhammetnazar Gapurow (26 March 1963 – 25 December 1969)
- Oraz Nazarowyç Orazmuhammedow (25 December 1969 – 17 December 1975)
- Bally Ýazgulyýewyç Ýazgulyýew (17 December 1975 – 15 December 1978)
- Çary Soýunowyç Garryýew (15 December 1978 – 26 March 1985)
- Saparmurat Niyazov (26 March 1985 – 4 January 1986)
- Annamurat Hojamyradowyç Hojamyradow (4 January 1986 – 17 November 1989)
- Han 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 Niyazov's death, Deputy Prime Minister for Science and Health 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.
The 1992 constitution established two parliamentary bodies, a unicameral People's Council or Halk Maslahaty (supreme legislative body of up to 2,500 delegates, some of whom were elected by popular vote and some of whom were appointed; met at least yearly) and a unicameral Assembly or Mejlis (originally 50 seats, eventually expanded to 125, whose members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms).
In late 2003 legislation was passed reducing the powers of the Mejlis and making the Halk Maslahaty the supreme legislative organ. The Halk Maslahaty could at that point legally dissolve the Mejlis, and the president was now able to participate in the Mejlis as its supreme leader. The Mejlis could no longer adopt or amend the constitution, or announce referendums or its elections. Since President Saparmurat Niyazov was both the "Chairman for Life" of the Halk Maslahaty and the supreme leader of the Mejlis, the 2003 law had the effect of making him the sole authority of both the executive and legislative branches of government.
Following Niyazov's death, in 2008, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow introduced a new constitution under which the Halk Maslahaty was reformed into an "Elders Council" with no legislative authority, and nominal legislative authority reverted to a unicameral Mejlis.
In October 2017, President Berdimuhamedow reorganized the Council of Elders into a new People's Council. In September 2020 the Turkmenistan Parliament adopted a constitutional amendment creating an upper chamber and thus making the Parliament bicameral. The People's Council became the upper chamber. Of its 56 members, 48 are indirectly elected and 8 are appointed by the president. Together with the previous unicameral parliamentary body, the 125-seat Mejlis, as the lower chamber, the Parliament is now called the National Council (Turkmen: Milli Geňeş).
Election to the upper chamber was held 28 March 2021. Elections to the Mejlis were last held 25 March 2018.
In January 2023 both chambers of parliament proposed to abolish the Halk Maslahaty as a legislative organ, to reform it as an independent representative body, and to place all legislative authority in a unicameral Assembly (Mejlis). This proposal was adopted in a joint sesssion of the National Council on 21 January 2023.
Political parties and elections
Turkmenistan was until recently a one-party state wherein only the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (Türkmenistanyň Demokratik partiýasynyň) was legally allowed to contest elections. Other parties are now formally allowed to exist 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, the Republican Party of Turkmenistan (Türkmenistanyň Respublikan partiýasynyň), operates in exile. Since all opposition was banned within Turkmenistan, so it has been forced to form and operate from abroad.
Below is the list of parliamentary parties in Turkmenistan:
|Democratic Party of Turkmenistan
Türkmenistanyň Demokratik Partiýasy
|TDP||Ata Serdarov||Turkmen nationalism
55 / 125
|Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan
Türkmenistanyň Senagatçylar we Telekeçiler partiýasy
11 / 125
|Agrarian Party of Turkmenistan
Türkmenistanyň agrar partiýasy
11 / 125
Turkmenistan is divided into five provinces (Turkmen: welaýatlar, singular welaýat): Ahal Province, Balkan Province, Daşoguz Province, Lebap Province, and Mary Province. The capital city, Ashgabat, is a separate entity and though a city has the legal status of a province (Turkmen: welaýat hukukly) under the Turkmen constitution.
An authoritative list of administrative divisions as of 5 January 2018, can be seen on the OpenStreetMap wiki.
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
Restrictions on communication
Despite the launch of Turkmenistan's first communication satellite—TürkmenÄlem 52°E / MonacoSAT—in April 2015, the Turkmen government banned all satellite dishes in Turkmenistan the same month. The statement issued by the government indicated that all existing satellite dishes would have to be removed or destroyed—despite the communications receiving antennas having been legally installed since 1995—in an effort by the government to fully block access of the population to many "hundreds of independent international media outlets" which are currently accessible in the country only through satellite dishes, including all leading international news channels in different languages. The main target of this campaign is Radio Azatlyk, the Turkmen-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Internet access is filtered and websites to which the government objects are blocked. Blocked websites include opposition news media, YouTube, many social media including Facebook, and encrypted communications applications. Use of virtual private networks to circumvent censorship is prohibited.
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)
- State Security Council of Turkmenistan
- Republican Party of Turkmenistan
- Annaberdi Kakabaýew
- Şemşat Annagylyjowa
- Gurbannazar Ashirov
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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.
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