Turkmen President Tightens Grip on Power with New Constitution
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s administration has been building the image of a liberalizing state after the death of his totalitarian predecessor for two years. The forthcoming new Constitution, already proclaimed as a stronghold of the Turkmen renaissance, promises to eliminate redundant elements in the state apparatus, but does not promote a full-fledged democracy, analysts say.
A new Constitution is expected to be adopted on September 26 at a special session of the people’s council, Halk Maslakhaty, which at the same time will abolish this structure for good.
Halk Maslakhaty has been an overarching body with powers transcending those of executive, legislative and judicial branches and was established by the first President Saparmurat Niyazov to legitimize his lifelong rule. Halk Maslakhaty had exclusive power to appoint a new leader of the country in extraordinary situations.
Elimination of Halk Maslakhaty and restoration of balance between three branches of power in the new Constitution seems to be in line with democratization, however other changes will only further strengthen presidential powers leaving the country under almost the same authoritarian rule.
All local city and district governors will by appointed by the President. The National Security Council will be also formed solely by the President.
Other important positions, such as Chairman of the Supreme Court, General Prosecutor, Minister of Interior and Minister of Justice will be appointed by President with the Parliament’s consent. However, judging by how composition of parliaments is controlled in all five Central Asian nations, there is very little doubt the Parliament will ever object Berdymukhammedov’s decision.
The new Constitution allows the National Security Council (NSC) to appoint a new president, however the Parliament, Medjlis, can dismiss a president in case he is incapable of carrying out his duties. This contradiction sets possibilities for future conflicts between Medjlis and NSC.
Observers also note that presidential control is strengthened with the same degree in politics, economy and energy. Recently Berdymukhammedov signed a law on energy resources, which establishes State agency for energy resources management directly responsible to the President.