Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed a law on 11 January 2012 legalizing the establishment of new political parties. Until now, the only registered party has been the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, headed by Berdymukhamedov. The law comes just days after the president authorised media outlets to be independent from state regulation. On 12 February new presidential elections will take place. According to Berdymukhamedov, the new law will give more candidates the opportunity to run for office.
The new law
Berdymukhamedov’s Democratic Party has been the only legal party since its establishment in 1991. Berdymukhamedov took office after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006. Since then, the Central Asion nation became less isolated. Last year Berdymukhamedov ordered lawmakers to draft a new law improving the competition among political parties. While presenting his program as presidential candidate, he now assured the Turkmen of a multiparty system. “We need parties that would consolidate the nation, inspire the people to creative work to ensure the further thriving of our Motherland”, the president said. The new law also regulates the relations between state bodies, political parties and other organizations.
The changes in the party system and media regulation are happening in tandem with upcoming in presidential elections. On 12 February the first elections in 20 years featuring more than one candidate will take place. Four candidates have already been officially registered to challenge Berdymukhamedov. Among those candidates are three directors of oil and chemical companies, Nikita Rejepov, Kakageldi Abdyllayev and Myrat Charykulyev, and the mayor of the Baba Dayhan District Aydogdy Kakabayev. Nonetheless, presumably no one will garner sufficient support or votes and many predict Berdimuhamedov to win the polls again. Actually, the question is not whether he wins, but with how many percent of the votes he will win. The discontent is also expressed by OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE), that recently announced not to send observers to Turkmenistan’s presidential election.
Of course, the law could be a façade to hide corruption and tyranny in the country, and the candidates running for president may not have much chance winning the next elections. However, the new law on political parties and media regulation might be the first step towards more democracy in Turkmenistan.
Sources: Radio Free Europe, the Atlantic, Ria Novosti, Turkish Weekly
Image Flickr: by Kerri-jo