In a attempt to democratize Turkmenistan and end one-party rule in the country, President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov approved to launch two new political parties. Apart from the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, an agrarian party and a pro-business party will become new players on the political spectrum.
Currently, the only legally registered political entity is the party of the president, the Democratic Party. According to Prime Minister Sapardurdy Toyliyev, the attempt has to be taken seriously and preparations for the establishment of the two new parties have already been made by the government. "The creation of a multi-party system in Turkmenistan corresponds with our aims to democratize society and undertake major social reforms," said the prime minister. In the wake of his re-election for a five-year term in February, the president vowed to emulate a creation of a multi-party political system and a market-led economy. He seems to be anxious to pull the country out of its isolation and attract foreign investors mainly to preserve the country’s gas industry in the future.
Despite this ostensibly liberal move, analysts are rather skeptical about the real meaning of the reforms. Parties established by an authoritarian regime will not enjoy real autonomy, they argued. "This could signal the beginning of managed democracy, but the rigid nature of the current system and lack of political opposition makes it unlikely these parties could pursue independent agendas," said Gemma Ferst, Eurasia Group analyst.
Since its independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkmenistan has been governed by autocratic iron-first rulers not benevolent to any democratic reforms. The current president succeeded Saparmurat Niyazov, who was hailed as “president for life”, yet pursued the same internal agenda. The 54-years old Berdymukhamedov, also known as Arkadag or The Patron, was challenged by seven candidates in the February presidential elections, which the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) refused to monitor. The candidates were picked by the government and praised the qualities of the president openly, resulting in a victory with 97% of the votes. The real opposition is still living in exile and human rights groups list the country as one of the most repressive states in the world. The religious and media freedoms were subject to "draconian restrictions", according to Human Rights Watch. The next parliamentary elections in the country will be held in 2013.
Sources: Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, Kyiv Post
Image Flickr: by peretzp