1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Turkmenistan president can now serve for life

September 14, 2016

Ahead of next year's elections, Turkemenistan has altered its laws on presidential terms. The most significant change will allow the country's leader to serve indefinitely.

Golden horse-mounted statue of Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov atop a giant slab of marble.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/I. sasin

The bill lengthens the term of president from five years to seven and eliminates the 70-year age limit for candidates.

It was approved by the country's Council of Elders, unanimously passed by the parliament and quickly signed into law by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

Presidential elections are scheduled for next year. After signing the document, Berdymukhamedov promised "alternatives" in presidential elections scheduled for next year that he is nonetheless expected to win by a landslide.

"Three political parties will participate in them, the Democratic party, Agrarian party and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs," said Berdymukhamedov at the special session attended by all three branches of the government.

Berdymukhamedov succeeded President Saparmurat Niyazov who served as Turkmenistan's president for 21 years until he died in office in 2006, at the age fo 66.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly BerdymukhamedovImage: Imago

An isolated desert nation

The president added that the election would "demonstrate the political activity, and the maturity of our people, their will to determine the country's future."

The isolated desert nation in central Asia has never held elections that were deemed free and fair by international observers. It is widely considered to be one of the world's most tightly controlled countries.

Karte Turkmenistan und Nachbarländer Englisch

Its primary source of revenue is exports of natural gas.

The 59-year-old Berdymukhamedov - a dentist by trade - rose through the ranks of the government's health ministry. He succeeded his eccentric predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006 after Niyazov reportedly died of heart failure.

Both men are honored with golden statues in the capital, Ashgabat, a city famed for its vast array of white marble clad buildings.

Turkmenistan ranks 129th in the world in terms of life expectancy, at just 66. For men it is only 62.

Golden statue of Berdymukhamedov's predecessor, Niyazov.
Statue of Berdymukhamedov's predecessor, NiyazovImage: picture-alliance/dpa

bik/kms (AFP, Reuters)