State and politics
Turkmenistan has since independence in 1991 served as a
one-party state with a prominent personal cult around
Presidents Saparmurat Nijazov and Gurbanguli
Berdimuchammedov (born 1957).
The Constitution of 1992 was revised in 2008 so that the
People's Assembly (e-mail) could become an efficient working
parliament with 125 deputies. Formally, the Constitution
allows several parties, but in practice only the former
Communist Party, which was transformed into the Turkmenistan
Democratic Party, was able to work. Parliament is elected
for a term of five years.
The president is the head of state and government as well
as commander-in-chief. In 2016, the term of office was
extended from five to seven years. The previous rule that
banned the president from sitting for more than two terms
was put off play in 1999 and since 2016 there is no longer
an age limit for how old a presidential candidate may be;
previously the limit was 70 years.
When Turkmenistan became independent in 1991 during the
collapse of the Soviet Union, Saparmurat Nijazov became the
country's first president. In 1999, Nijazov was elected
president for life. In early 2007, Gurbanguli
Berdimuchammedov was elected in a well-directed election to
new president after Nijazov's unexpected death in late 2006.
Berdimuchammedov should have been appointed as a compromise
between various influential groups. Customer affiliation is
an important element of political life. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of TM and its meanings of Turkmenistan.
However, Berdimuchammedov's power was significantly
strengthened in May 2007 when the former commander of
Nijazov's life guard, Lieutenant General Serdar Rejepov, was
deposed and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Berdimuchammedov's first five years as president were marked
by some renewal, but hardly any democratization.
Turkmenistan has instead consolidated its position as one of
the world's most authoritarian and repressive states. In
2012, a new regime-controlled presidential election was held
in which Berdimuchammedov was re-elected with 97 percent of
the vote and in the 2017 elections, the president received
98 percent of the vote, according to official data.
In the parliamentary elections held in 2013, for the
first time, a party in addition to the ruling Turkmenistan
Democratic Party was allowed to stand. The party for
industrialists and entrepreneurs was supplemented in the
2018 election with the Turkmenistan farmer's party, but no
real opposition. After the 2018 election, 31 MPs (25
percent) were women.
The cult of personality around Nijazov has gradually been
replaced by a cult around Berdimuchammedov and since 2013,
Nijazov's "Ruhnama" ("Soul Book"), which includes myths
about Turkmenistan's early history, is no longer a
compulsory element of teaching. Hopes that Nijazov's demise
would be followed by an upgrading of the school system,
freer media and a generally raised standard of living have
been met to a very small extent.
The Russians share of the population has fallen to a few
percent due to emigration. Since the Russian Federation and
Turkmenistan agreed in 2003 not to grant dual citizenship in
the future, Turkmenistan unilaterally rejected the dual
citizenship that many Russians in the country had already
acquired. Holders of Russian passports have been largely
dismissed from their jobs.
The justice system in Turkmenistan is highly politicized.
For example, on December 30, 2002, Parliament sharpened the
verdict of a group of opposition to life imprisonment
despite the most severe sentence under the law being 25
years in prison. The legislation is drafted so that it gives
the state great influence over all sectors of society.
However, limited parts of economic legislation have been
modernized. The death penalty was abolished in 1999. By
tradition, the president has pardoned prisoners for major
celebrations like Ramadan.
At the 2012 presidential election, President Gurbanguli
Berdimuchammedov retained his position in power, and despite
implementing some reforms in a democratic direction, the
country is still ranked as one of the world's ten most
authoritarian countries. Turkmenistan is a one-party state
and political opposition is lacking. Real power is
concentrated on the president and respect for laws and
conventions is low. Furthermore, Turkmenistan's access to a
particular convention is one thing and the application of
the same convention is something quite different, and no
real civil society exists in practice. The approaches
available to create one are carefully controlled by the
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is provided
for in the Constitution, but in practice it is severely
limited and all media are controlled by the state. In the
ranking of freedom of the press that the Reporters Without
Borders organization made in 2015, Turkmenistan is ranked
178 out of 180 countries, closest to North Korea and
According to reports from international organizations
such as Human Rights Watch, torture in prisons and prisons
occurs, often as a way to force confessions. The prisons are
overcrowded and the sanitary conditions substandard. In
order to survive, many interns have to rely on relatives and
friends delivering food, but those prisoners sentenced by
the "Homeland Traitors" Act are not allowed to receive food
packages from outside. Deaths within the prison environment
The State's own security service monitors citizens
through personal surveillance, telephone interception and
e-mail control. Foreign visitors and diplomats are also
monitored and there are no legal restrictions in the area of
surveillance. Arbitrary detention occurs to a large extent
and people who are particularly vulnerable are criticized as
being critical of the government. Exercise of authority by
the police and the security agencies is often characterized
by arbitrary and widespread corruption, which means that
legal security is lost.
The Constitution prohibits religious freedom but it is
limited. All religious communities must be registered and to
do so, at least 500 members are required at each place where
registration is desired which often makes registration
The law prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender,
but women are underrepresented in government, business and
politics. Violence against women in the home is widespread
and many crimes of this kind are never reported. Trafficking
in women for prostitution exists and there is no legislation
against human trafficking.
Many minority groups, of which Russians and the Uzbek are
the largest groups, state that they are being discriminated
against as a result of the previous president's program to
promote Turkmen nation-building.
Heads of State