The Turkmen parliament passed a new law on political parties after the former Soviet republic’s president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, moved to make it easier for other political forces to challenge the Turkmen Democratic Party’s monopolistic grip on power, national television said on Wednesday.
Berdymukhamedov has headed the Democratic Party since the death of his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, in late 2006. While the previous law allowed for the creation of other political parties, the Democratic Party has remained the only legal party in the gas-rich Central Asian country since its creation in 1991 following the Soviet collapse.
In May 2010, Berdymukhamedov ordered the country’s lawmakers to work out a new law on political parties, which he said would improve political competition in the country.
According to the report aired on Turkmen state TV, the new law “defines the legal grounds for the establishment of political parties, their rights, obligations and guarantees of their activity.” It also “regulates relations between political parties and state institutions, as well as other organizations.”
The report provided no further details about the new law, which has yet to be signed by the president.
Addressing the nation ahead of presidential elections due on February 12, Berdymukhamedov said on Monday Turkmenistan needed new political parties to “unify our people and inspire them to work productively for the sake of our Motherland’s prosperity.”
A total of 14 candidates, four of whom have been officially registered, intend to challenge Berdymukhamedov in the forthcoming polls.
Under Berdymukhamedov’s leadership, the Central Asian nation of 5.2 million has become less isolated than it was under Niyazov. Berdymukhamedov has styled himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of the Turkmen, and was declared president for life in 1999.