On 18 May 1992, Turkmenistan received a new constitution. Turkmenistan became a presidential republic, with a president elected directly for five years. The president is the head of the state, the army and the government. The President also chairs the People's Council and appoints the Council of Ministers.
The Parliament is the main legislative body and consists of 50 members also elected directly for 5 years. The members of parliament also sit on the People's Council, together with a number of locally elected representatives. The People's Council meets once a year, but due to its composition has little cohesion. The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (DPT), the successor of the Communist Party, is the only party in parliament.
As the parliament is not very powerful and Nijazov combines the functions of prime minister and president, the head of state dominates the political process. In 1999, the constitution was changed in such a way that it is possible for Nijazov to remain president for life. However, he has announced that he will hold elections for 2010.
Nijazov's policy is strongly aimed at stimulating Turkmen nationalism, by positioning himself as the political and spiritual leader of the country. Central to Turkmen nationalism is the personality cult surrounding his person. He has given himself the title of Turkmenbashi (leader of all Turkmen) and everywhere in the country, his portraits have been hung up and statues of him erected. Schools, factories and even a city have been renamed 'Turkmenbashi'.
Opposition within Turkmenistan itself seems to be almost non-existent, partly due to the suppression of the opposition, but also due to the maintenance of the Soviet system, in which basic consumer goods are free. Since 2002, however, there seems to be more political unrest in the country. An assassination attempt on the president in November 2002 was used to further suppress the opposition. Opposition groups mainly operate from abroad, mainly in Moscow. In 2003, they announced that they would work together, forming the Union of Democratic Forces of Turkmenistan.
The current political situation is described in the history section.
Government policy is mainly aimed at import substitution, which creates price distortions. As in the Soviet system, the government uses long-term plans, in which production targets are set, for economic development. State-owned enterprises receive high subsidies, resulting in a rising public deficit. This is financed by taking out interest-free loans from the Central Bank of Turkmenistan. Just after independence, inflation was sky-high, but since 1996 it has been reduced to around 10% a year by a stricter monetary policy. Tax collection remains problematic, partly because of widespread corruption.
In May 2004, Nivazov announced privatisations, with the proviso that key sectors would remain in state hands. To date, there is hardly any private sector and reforms have barely begun. The climate for foreign investors is generally quite poor.
The economy is heavily dependent on gas and oil revenues. Here, Turkmenistan is seeking to diversify its customers, as some of them pay poorly. The policy is also to increase refining activities, which increases added value. Often, revenues are invested in prestige projects, such as palaces, rather than in further development of the economy. The last three years, 2011 to just 2013, have seen tremendous economic growth, with rates above 10%. In 2017, the growth rate is 6.5 %. The GNP per capita has also risen sharply to $18,200 in 2017.
CIA - World Factbook
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