06/02/2015, 00.00
TURKMENISTAN
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Turkmenistan's parliament to approve changes that would allow president for life

President Berdymukhamedov chaired constitutional commission that is deciding whether to extend presidential term and lifting 70-year age limit for presidential election. The reforms would be implemented because they enjoy nationwide support.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews) – Turkmenistan’s constitutional commission is considering two changes to the country’s constitution. The first one would extend the presidential term from five to seven years; the second would remove the 70-year age limit for presidential office holders, this according to Parliamentary Speaker Akdzha Nurberdyeva who last Friday spoke on television.

If accepted, these changes would allow President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 57, to serve indefinitely. Only last week, the latter celebrated the cult of his personality with the unveiling of statue showing himself on a horse, gilded with 24-karat gold.

Under proposed constitutional reform, the presidential term would go from five to seven years “for the purpose of successful implementation of large-scale long-term programs”, said Akdzha Nurberdyeva, speaker of the Turkmen parliament. Under existing rules, presidents can be elected for only three terms.

President Berdymukhamedov, who chaired the meeting of the Constitutional Commission, said that proposed constitutional changes enjoy nationwide support.

He suggested revising the constitutional provisions concerning the rights, freedoms, and duties of Turkmen citizens so as to meet international law norms, as well as defining the rights for private entrepreneurship, private ownership and property.

Elected for the first time in 2006 after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdymukhammedov was re-elected in 2012 with more than 97 per cent in a poll international observers described as "neither free nor fair."

The next presidential election is slated for 2017, but could be pushed back to 2019.

Rich in natural resources, Turkmenistan is considered one of the most repressive states in the world, among the worst offenders in terms of civil liberties and democratic governance.

According to Reporters without Borders, it was 178th out of 180 countries surveyed in 2014 in terms of freedom of the press.

The president said the final version of the Constitution should be submitted to Parliament and approved by the Council of Elders of Turkmenistan in 2016.

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