September 14, 2016

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Lawmakers in the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan on Wednesday adopted amendments to the country’s constitution which pave the way for a life-long presidency for the incumbent leader.

Turkmenistan, an authoritarian former Soviet republic, has been ruled by 59-year old Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a trained dentist, since 2006 when he succeeded the previous president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who had been granted a life-long presidency. Niyazov had a genuine personality cult with his book, Rukhnama, taught at school as the cornerstone of education.

Turkmenistan’s parliament and Council of the Elders on Wednesday voted unanimously to extend the presidential term in office from five to seven years and do away with the 70-year age limit for the head of state.

Speaking at the annual session of the Council of the Elders which brings together community leaders, lawmakers and members of the government, Berdymukhamedov said the amendments were drafted “by all of our people, based on multiple requests from our citizens, political parties” as well as unnamed international experts.

Berdymukhamedov was re-elected for his second term in office with 97 percent of the vote in 2012.