Category: Silk Land of Turkmenistan

February 13, 2017

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Turkmenistan’s Central Election Commission says the incumbent leader has won the presidential election. Commission chairman Gulmurat Muradov told reporters on Monday that Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov won 97.7 percent of the vote in the gas-rich Central Asian nation. Muradov said the results from Sunday’s election are preliminary and that election authorities still have to count ballots cast in Turkmenistan’s embassies abroad.

Berdymukhamedov has been the overwhelmingly dominant figure in the former Soviet republic since late 2006, when he assumed power after the death of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. The country last year amended the constitution to extend the presidential term to seven years from five, and eliminated the age limit of 70, effectively allowing Berdymukhamedov to be president for life.

February 11, 2017

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — The authoritarian president of Turkmenistan is set to sail to victory in Sunday’s election where eight other candidates are on the ballot, but all praise his polices. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been the overwhelmingly dominant figure in the former Soviet republic since late 2006, when he assumed power after death of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Berdymukhamedov has made small reforms of the single-party system imposed by Niyazov and some aspects of the latter’s cult of personality, which included naming the months of the year after his family members and mandating all schoolchildren read his book of philosophical musings.

Some of Niyazov’s more notoriously odd initiatives, such as banning opera and gold teeth, also were rolled back. Notably, Berdymukhamedov expanded public access to the internet and increased compulsory education from nine years to 12.

Under Berdymukhamedov, a law was adopted to allow non-government parties, although these parties are strictly vetted. The candidates nominally competing with Berdymukhamedov have been allowed to meet with voters in theaters and cultural centers, but the encounters were not televised and no debates were held.

The country last year amended the constitution to extend the presidential term to seven years from five, and eliminated the age limit of 70, effectively allowing Berdymukhamedov to be president for life.

Meanwhile, Berdymukhamedov has established a considerable personality cult of his own. He is regularly shown on state media successfully acquitting himself in a wide array of physical and competitive disciplines, such as horse-riding, racing cars, cycling, sailing and lifting weights. More recently, the president has taken up music with gusto, on occasion regaling wildly applauding crowds with performances on the guitar and piano.

State television reported on how during a pre-election visit to a gas refinery last month, Berdymukhamedov watched as workers serenaded him on a severely out-of-tune guitar. Later, the president was shown strumming the same guitar — now properly tuned — and performing a song of his own composition as workers clapped along.

Authorities in Turkmenistan have secured quiescence among the country’s 5 million people through a combination of authoritarianism and generous welfare subsidies, like free household gas and salt. But the state’s ability to dispense that largesse has come under intense strain as the price for natural gas — Turkmenistan’s only significant export commodity — has plummeted.

Until a few years ago, Turkmenistan could count on selling gas to China, Russia and Iran. Russia and Iran have recently stopped buying the fuel, however, following pricing disputes. Turkmenistan is placing strong hopes on an ambitious plan to build a gas pipeline serving Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, but construction so far is underway only in Turkmenistan.

The economic crisis triggered by the collapse in gas revenue has led to devaluation of the national currency, the manat, and shortages for many staples including cooking oil and sugar. Because of the intense secrecy which the government imposes on economic data, there are few ways of being certain about the depth of the problem.

Although tight visa procedures make it difficult for outsiders to visit, Turkmenistan has built an elaborate resort complex on the Caspian Sea. Gas revenues spurred a spectacular construction boom in the capital Ashgabat, turning swaths of the city into gleaming white marble residential towers flanking wide, lightly trafficked thoroughfares.

Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.

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.

07 November 2014 Friday

The already-close ties between Turkey and Turkmenistan will continue to flourish, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

Speaking to the press before starting face-to-face talks with his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Erdogan drew attention to the number of important projects Turkish construction companies are carrying out in Turkmenistan.

He added that relations will also develop in trade, culture and tourism.

Erdogan was welcomed by Berdimuhamedow with an official ceremony on Friday. Turkmenistan is the first Central Asian country Erdogan has visited as president.

“Turkey and Turkmenistan have common stances for establishing global peace and prosperity,” Berdimuhamedow said, mentioning that the economic ties between the two countries enrich historic fraternity between Turkish and Turkmen nations.

The two nations also enjoy strong relations in terms of trade and investment, with about 600 Turkish companies registered in the country with more than $34 billion in contract work.

The trade volume between the two countries reached $2.6 billion in 2013.

Energy trade between Turkmenistan and Turkey also has great potential as the former holds some 10 to 12 percent of proven natural gas reserves in the world.

Turkey could have an important role in delivering Turkmen gas into the European market, if the country were to begin gas exports to Turkey.

Source: World Bulletin.


December 15, 2013

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Energy-rich Turkmenistan held its first multi-party parliamentary elections Sunday, but all the contenders swore loyalty to the Central Asian nation’s autocratic leader.

President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov has described the elections as a landmark stage in the ex-Soviet country’s democratic development, while Amnesty International has called them a sham. Earlier this year, Berdymukhamedov stepped down as leader of the Democratic Party, a move he said should encourage democracy. The pro-business Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs created in 2012 also pledges loyalty to Berdymukhamedov, as do three other groups taking part in the vote.

Berdymukhamedov, nicknamed Arkadag (the Protector), has run Turkmenistan with an iron fist since 2006, controlling all aspects of life in the mostly Muslim nation of five million people that borders the Caspian Sea.

On Sunday, state television aired footage of the president visiting a polling station along with his parents. When they got off a minibus, a singer in bright folk costume began performing a song about the president from a stage adorned with Berdymukhamedov’s portrait. Members of the local election commission stood up and greeted the leader with words: “Welcome, Arkadag!”

After Berdymukhamedov and his parents cast their ballots, the musicians once again performed the same song “Arkadag” praising the president. Turkmenistan, which boasts rich natural gas reserves estimated to be the fourth largest in the world, has been the subject of intense rivalry for influence between the West, Russia and China.

Berdymukhamedov, a 56-year-old former dentist, came to power after the death of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. Niyazov, Turkmenistan’s former Communist leader, was celebrated in a bizarre cult of personality that saw cities, streets, months, periodicals and public organizations named after him and his family members. Niyazov also made a two-volume spiritual tome he wrote mandatory reading.

Berdymukhamedov, meanwhile, has maintained the authoritarian leadership style of his predecessor, allowing no dissent or independent media and becoming the subject of adulation that also bears the hallmarks of a personality cult in the mostly desert country the size of California.

During the election campaign, state television broadcast footage of candidates speaking in support of the government’s course and meeting with voters in rooms adorned with portraits of the president. In Sunday’s election, 283 candidates are running for 125 seats in the national parliament, which has served as a rubber stamp for Berdymukhamedov.

“I’m confident that the elected members of parliament will justify the voters trust and bring an honorable contribution to the country’s development,” Berdymukhamedov said after casting his ballot. More than 90 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the vote, the Central Election Commission said.

“We have a big holiday today: for the first time the new Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is taking part in the parliamentary elections,” Makhym Annamukhamedova, a textile factory worker said after voting in the Turkmen capital. “I think it is a big step forward for democracy.”

Amnesty International described the elections as window dressing. “Holding these elections will not address the atmosphere of total repression, denial of the basic human rights, and the all-permeating fear that has gripped society in Turkmenistan for years, and all pretense of progress on human rights is simply deceitful,” John Dalhuisen, the group’s Europe and Central Asia program director, said in a statement. “There is still no genuine opposition party, no independent media and not a single independent human rights organization operating freely inside the country.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, for the first time sent a mission to assess if the vote meets international standards, but it will not conduct a comprehensive observation of the voting, counting and tabulation. It promised to issue a final report in two months.

August 18, 2013

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AFP) – Turkmenistan’s president announced Saturday he was stepping down as leader of the ruling party while he remained in office to promote a multi-party system in the isolated former Soviet state.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told a party congress that he was resigning as leader of the ruling Democratic Party, which he has led since 2006, because he wanted to remain above party politics, according to television footage broadcast Saturday evening.

“I am suspending my membership of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan while I am president,” Berdymukhamedov said.

“I also think that it would be useful for those who hold positions of responsibility in the government not to be members of a party while they are carrying out their functions,” he added.

A government source earlier in the day had quoted Berdymukhamedov as telling the party congress that “the president of a country should not be a member of any party, so as not to create advantages for his party in a multi-party system.”

Berdymukhamedov, a dentist by profession, took power in 2006 after the death of his father, eccentric dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who erected a golden rotating statue of himself as part of a bizarre personality cult.

Berdymukhamedov also took over as Democratic Party leader from Niyazov. Formerly the Turkmen branch of the Soviet Communist Party, it was the country’s only party for two decades.

Last year, a new law authorized the creation of a new political party called the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan.

Both parties are set to contest parliamentary elections in December.

Berdymukhamedov has embarked on tentative reforms, although his critics say the stabs at change have been little more than window dressing and he has done little to truly dismantle Niyazov’s legacy.

The president also said that as leader of the armed forces, the law bars him from being a member of any party, according to a government source.

It was unclear whether the party members would immediately vote for a new leader.