Turkmenistan’s Two-Party Farce

Naz Nazar is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations.

In August, Turkmenistan officially joined the ranks of a two-party system. The establishment of the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, formally ended the single party dominance of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan that has ruled the country since 1991. However, analysts and political observers doubt the change will lead to democratic reforms in the isolated Central Asian state.

In Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the country’s president known as “Arkadag” (the protector), has cultivated an intense cult of personality. There the “protector’s” word counts as law. Everyone in Turkmenistan’s government takes instructions from the president, from the head of the parliament to government ministers on down.

Observers note that Berdimuhamedov promised to create a second party two years ago, but that he waited to do so until this past August, only after he had secured reelection in February. While the president has technically brought pluralism to the country, the new party may, if anything, cement the divide between the have-nots and Turkmenistan’s political elite. The Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs will be led by Orazmammed Mammedov, one of Berdimuhamedov’s close friends and is unlikely to put forward real opposition.

You can read more about the current state of Turkmenistan as well as assessments from prominent experts in my recent article published in The Washington Times.

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