Turkmen parliament welcomes first "opposition" MP

By bne IntelliNews June 11, 2013

bne -

Following a June 10 by-election, a representative from Turkmenistan's second political party is set to enter parliament. It will be the first time more than one party has been represented in Turkmenistan in over two decades of independence.

Ovezmammed Mammedov, elected by a constituency in the Lebap region in elections to fill five empty parliament seats, will be the first MP not from the ruling Democratic Party of Turkmenistan - the successor to the Soviet-era Communist Party - to enter parliament.

Mammedov is the leader of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. The decision to set up the country's second party was proposed last year by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who retains a tight grip on the political scene in the authoritarian country.

Berdymukhamedov first proposed creating a multi-party state in 2010, suggesting that a Peasants Party be set up to support agricultural reforms. Legislation to allow new political parties to be created was proposed later that year, but only approved in early 2012, by which time Berdymukhamedov had won a landslide re-election.

The Association of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs started to set up their party in March the same year, with the party registering five months later. Despite the existence of a second party, and now an "opposition" MP in the parliament, there are no signs that Berdymukhamedov is ready to open up the country to genuine political pluralism. There are reports that Mammedov is actually a close friend of the president.

Meanwhile, Turkmenistan's legislation continues to block "real" opposition, analysts point out. It stipulates that political parties must have at least 1,000 members and have a governing structure "located exclusively on Turkmenistan territory". That clause excludes existing opposition movements, whose leaders all live in exile.

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