World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkmenistan launched its second political party on Tuesday, a token nod to democracy unlikely to pose any challenge to the absolute rule of President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in the gas-rich Central Asian state.
The 300-member Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs held its inaugural meeting two years after the president ordered the creation of a multi-party system in the ex-Soviet republic.
State media reported that Orazmammed Mammedov, a member of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs - which itself was signed into being by the president last year - was elected chairman of the new party.
Known as Arkadag, or The Patron, Berdymukhamedov is president, prime minister, commander of the armed forces and leader of the Democratic Party which, until now, was the only legally registered political force in Turkmenistan.
Analysts are sceptical that the 54-year-old qualified dentist plans to relax his tight grip on the desert nation of 5.5 million people bordering Iran and Afghanistan, which BP says holds the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves.
Turkmen opposition activists live in exile and rights groups regularly rank the country among the world's most repressive. Human Rights Watch said in its latest annual report that media and religious freedoms were subject to "draconian restrictions."
Keen to win investment for the country's gas ambitions, Berdymukhamedov has taken steps to bring Turkmenistan out of the isolation that accompanied the eccentric rule of predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, who banned opera and renamed the months of the year.
In his first public comments after winning re-election in February, Berdymukhamedov said he aimed to build a market economy and multi-party political system. He has also approved the creation of a third, agrarian party.
Berdymukhamedov extended his term by five years by winning 97 percent of votes in the Feb. 12 election, which was shunned by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe because of its lack of competition.
Berdymukhamedov set himself up against seven token challengers drawn from government ministries and state enterprises, several of whom openly praised the president's achievements prior to the vote.
Men killed during two-day clearance operation near border with Bangladesh, according to Office of State Counselor
Terrorist gang led by brothers attempting to establish ISIL territory in Mindanao, government says
Group behind last July's attempted putsch in Turkey also poses danger to Japan, Mevlut Cavusoglu says
Kabul says it was not consulted, fencing will divide tribes living at the Durand Line
Mevlut Cavusoglu meets representatives of business and tourism sectors
Scholarships will be granted over the next ten years, Chinese foreign minister says
Number of oppressed Rohingya refugees rose over 30,000 since the previous year, says report
The MT Putri Sea, registered in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, went down on Thursday in a busy shipping lane off the southern state of Johor, near Singapore.
Seoul kept in dark over welfare of at least six South Koreans currently incarcerated in North
Latest attack in Pakistan’s Gwadar district comes days after an alleged terrorist threat was thwarted in Iran’s Chabahar
Pyongyang demands response from Washington or face consequences
92 bodies, tail of aircraft recovered so far from Andaman Sea, according to military
President Moon pushes ahead with choice of top envoy despite political opposition over ethics
The incident happened when Flight MU744 from Charles de Gaulle Airport was descending to land at Kunming Changshui International Airport in Yunnan province, Xinhua news agency reported.