Turkmen leader pushes election law

Turkmen President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov has ordered the country's highest legislative body to consider a bill paving the way for elections.

    President Saparmurat Niyazov (R) may step down in 2009

    The order on Wednesday follows Niyazov's pledge earlier this year to hold elections and step down in 2009. It was carried by official newspapers after being signed the day before, and sets the date of the People's Council's next session for 24 October.

    The council is a hand-picked assembly of more than 2000 top officials and elders that Niyazov uses to endorse his most important decisions.

    No details of the bill were given. The ex-Soviet republic has no law governing presidential elections.

    During his 20-year rule in the gas-rich Central Asian nation, Niyazov created a vast personality cult around himself and isolated the nation of six million from the outside world.

    President for life

    Lawmakers declared Niyazov president for life in 1999, but Niyazov claimed he rejected the idea two years later and has since given several timelines for presidential polls.

    Last year, the People's Council rejected his proposal to hold presidential elections in 2009 and again asked him to stay in office for life.

    In April, Niyazov reiterated that he wanted to hold elections in 2009. The statement came weeks after the opposition uprising that overthrew the longtime leader in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

    Niyazov reduced parliament's role in 2003, stripping it of the right to make constitutional changes, and made the People's Council the country's highest legislative body.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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