Turkmenistan advertises for members of "opposition" party

By bne IntelliNews May 25, 2012

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Spooked by the Arab Spring, the Turkmen government has decided to create political "competition" and set up a second party. Adverts in the national press are now calling for volunteers.

Turkmenistan's Association of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs has kicked off the formation of the new political party by placing an advertisements in the Rysgal newspaper calling for people to join, RIA Novosti reports.

Turkmenistan has always been a single party state, with the country's political life utterly dominated by the Democratic Party, itself a successor to the Soviet-era Communist Party. Led by former President Saparmurat Niyazov, it was taken over by Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov when he became president following Niyazov's death in 2006.

Niyazov appeared happy as the Central Asian country's supreme ruler, but Berdymukhamedov, whilst steadily increasing his own authority, has made some half-hearted attempts to make Turkmenistan at least appear to be moving towards democracy. This has only been encouraged by fears that the wave of revolutions that spread across the Middle East in 2011 could be replicated in the country.

Legislation allowing rival political parties to be created was adopted at the instigation of the president in 2010. Following the February 2012 presidential election - at which Berdymukhamedov was returned to office with 97% of the vote - plans to create two new parties were announced.

Deputy Prime Minister Sapardurdy Toylyev announced on March 27 that an agrarian party and an enterpreneurs' party are being created. However, the Turkmen authorities have shown no signs that they plan to allow genuine opposition activity. It is not known how many have rushed to sign up to the new opposition.

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