Turkmenistan launches its second political party

Turkmenistan launches its second political party

ASHGABAT - Reuters
Turkmenistan launches its second political party

Turkmenistan President Berdymukhamedov (L) walks with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül during a visit to İzmir. DHA photo

Turkmenistan launched its second political party yesterday, a token nod to democracy unlikely to pose any challenge to the absolute rule of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in the reclusive, gas-rich Central Asian state.

The 300-member Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs held its inaugural meeting two years after the president ordered the creation of a multi-party system in the ex-Soviet republic.

State media reported that Orazmammed Mammedov, a member of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which itself was signed into being by the president last year - was elected chairman of the new party.

President, PM, commander

Known as Arkadag, or The Patron, Berdimuhamedov is president, prime minister, commander of the armed forces and leader of the Democratic Party which, until now, was the only legally registered political force in Turkmenistan.

Analysts are skeptical that the 54-year-old qualified dentist plans to relax his tight grip on the desert nation of 5.5 million people bordering Iran and Afghanistan, which BP says holds the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves. Turkmen opposition activists live in exile and rights groups regularly rank the country among the world’s most repressive. Human Rights Watch said in its latest annual report that media and religious freedoms were subject to “draconian restrictions.”

Keen to win investment for the country’s gas ambitions, Berdymukhamedov has taken steps to bring Turkmenistan out of the isolation that accompanied the eccentric rule of predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, who banned opera and renamed the months of the year.