Politics of Turkmenistan

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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. However, no true opposition parties are allowed; every registered political party supports the second and current President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. [1] The country is frequently described as a totalitarian state. [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 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.)

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 ("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 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 [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  [ tk ] and Galkynyş  [ tk ], 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 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.), [6] there is no clear indication as to how certain demographic groups, such as women, have fared in the field.

The United Nations General Assembly recognized and supported Turkmenistan's "status of permanent neutrality" on 11 January 1996. [7]

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". [8] [9]

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.[ citation needed ]

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

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

As of 2021, Turkmenistan's Parliament ("National Council", Turkmen : Milli Geňeş) is bicameral, with a 56-seat upper chamber ("People's Council", Turkmen : Halk Maslahaty) and 125-seat lower chamber ("Assembly", Turkmen : Mejlis). The upper chamber is elected indirectly, while the lower chamber is popularly elected.


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 referenda 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. [10]

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. [11]

In October 2017, President Berdimuhamedow reorganized the Council of Elders into a new People's Council. [12] In September 2020 the Turkmenistan Parliament adopted a constitutional amendment creating an upper chamber and thus making the Parliament bicameral. [13] 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. [14] [15] Elections to the Mejlis were last held 25 March 2018. [16] [17]

De facto authority

Outside observers consider the Turkmen legislature to be a rubber stamp parliament. [16] [17] [18] The Turkmen legislature is described as under the "full control" of the president. [19]

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. [20]

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. Authorities described this as a step toward democracy.[ citation needed ]

Administrative divisions

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

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:

Domestic policy

Restrictions on communication

Despite the launch of Turkmenistan's first communication satelliteTürkmenÄlem 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. [21]

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. [22] [23] [24]

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

Related Research Articles

History of Turkmenistan Aspect of history

The history of Turkmenistan is largely shrouded in mystery, its past since the arrival of Indo-European Iranian tribes around 2000 BC is often the starting point of the area's discernible history. Early tribes were nomadic or semi-nomadic due to the arid conditions of the region as the steppe culture in Central Asia was an extension of a larger Eurasian series of horse cultures which spanned the entire spectrum of language families including the Indo-Europeans and Turko-Mongol groups. Some of the known early Iranian tribes included the Massagatae, Scythians/Sakas, and early Soghdians. Turkmenistan was a passing point for numerous migrations and invasions by tribes which gravitated towards the settled regions of the south including ancient Mesopotamia, Elam, and the Indus Valley Civilization.

Turkmenistan Country in Central Asia

Turkmenistan, also known as Turkmenia, officially the Republic of Turkmenistan, is a country in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north, east and northeast, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest and the Caspian Sea to the west. Ashgabat is the capital and largest city of the country. The population of the country is about 6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics. Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia. Citizens of Turkmenistan are known as Turkmenistanis, Turkmenians or Turkmens.

Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic Constituent republics of the Soviet Union in Central Asia

The Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, also commonly known as Turkmenistan or Turkmenia, was one of the constituent republics of the Soviet Union located in Central Asia existed as a republic from 1925 to 1991. Initially, on 7 August 1921, it was established as the Turkmen Oblast of the Turkestan ASSR before being made, on 13 May 1925, a separate republic of the USSR as the Turkmen SSR.

Democratic Party of Turkmenistan Ruling party of Turkmenistan

The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan has been the ruling party of Turkmenistan since 1991.

President of Turkmenistan Head of state and head of government, of Turkmenistan

The president of Turkmenistan is the head of state and head of government, of Turkmenistan. The president is the chief executive of the union government in his position as Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and is also the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Turkmenistan.

Monument of Neutrality is a monument originally located in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. In 2010 it was moved to the suburbs. The three-legged arch, which became known locally as "The Tripod", was 75 metres (246 ft) tall and was built in 1998 on the orders of Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov to commemorate the country's official position of neutrality. It cost $12 million to construct. The monument was topped by a 12-metre (39 ft) tall gold-plated statue of Niyazov which rotated always to face the sun. The arch was located in central Ashgabat where it dominated the skyline, being taller than the nearby Presidential Palace. The statue was illuminated at night. The arch featured a panoramic viewing platform which was a popular attraction for visitors.

Peoples Council of Turkmenistan

The Halk Maslahaty is the upper chamber of Turkmenistan's Parliament or "National Council". It consists of 56 members, 48 elected from the five provinces plus capital city of Ashgabat, and 8 appointed by the president.

Assembly of Turkmenistan Lower house of parliament of Turkmenistan

The Assembly is since March 2021 the lower house of the National Council of Turkmenistan. It has 125 members, elected for five-year terms in single-seat constituencies.

Öwezgeldi Ataýew was Chairman of the Assembly of Turkmenistan from 2002 to 2006. According to the Constitution of Turkmenistan, he was to become the acting president after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov in December 2006. However, the State Security Council of Turkmenistan reported that Ataýew was not appointed acting president due to a criminal case started against him. Ataýew was charged with abuse of power and human rights violations.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow President of Turkmenistan

Gurbanguly Malikgulyyevich Berdimuhamedov, or Gurbanguly Malikgulyevich Berdymukhamedov, is a Turkmen politician who has been serving as the president of Turkmenistan since February 2007.

2007 Turkmenistan presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Turkmenistan on February 11, 2007, following the death of president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov on 21 December 2006.

Republican Party of Turkmenistan Political party in Turkmenistan

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Saparmurat Niyazov Turkmen politician

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Index of Turkmenistan-related articles Wikipedia index

The list of Turkmenistan-related articles is below

Gurbansoltan Eje was the mother of the first post-Soviet president Saparmurat Niyazov ("Türkmenbaşy").

The Day of Remembrance is an official holiday of Turkmenistan, commemorating those who were killed in the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake on 6 October 1948. It is one of two mourning days in Turkmenistan.

2021 Turkmen Peoples Council election Parliamentary election in Turkmenistan

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National Council of Turkmenistan Turkmenistans bicameral national legislative body or parliament

The National Council of Turkmenistan is Turkmenistan's bicameral national legislative body or parliament. The upper chamber is the People's Council and the lower chamber is the Assembly. The National Council was created in March 2021 following election of members to the upper chamber, which in turn followed a constitutional amendment in late 2020.


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