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.
Shelling from India has claimed the lives of nine civilians as India fired shells across the border of Indian occupied Kashmir
A total of 22 warships and vessels, up to 20 jets and helicopters, more than 500 marines and 40 units of equipment were involved in the drills
Marines wounded in clash as government forces continue to pursue Abu Sayyaf fighters holding hostages in Philippines south.
Court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency, which probed the cases, to apprehend Gilani, who was prime minister from 2008 to 2012
Malay Muslim insurgents groups active in southern Thailand ask for immunity from criminal prosecution; Thai gov't wants 'violence-free zones'
Southeast Asian country wants US to watch over its ships in the disputed sea
Courts in at least five cities in Uighur populated region jailed suspects for several crimes including 'organising terrorist groups', 'illegal border crossing'
Report says 626 now returned in five rounds, leaving 101 waiting in Myanmar to be repatriated
Two countries decide to meet, after NSA-backed high-level peace talks collapsed days earlier
Two US-led NATO soldiers have been killed by two gunmen wearing Afghan security forces' uniform in southern Helmand province, NATO says
Patel community demands special government priveledges given to country's many other minorities
A row over the agenda for much anticipated NSA talks between India and Kashmir, has left many Kashmiri's fearing for their lives over constant shelling.
More than 2,155 kilograms of raw tusks and carved trinkets were incinerated as authorities try to clamp down on illegal sales.
India has expressed concern over the growing number of Muslims in its country, deliberately delaying the release of date because of the latest statistics.
US President was sorry about WikiLeaks claims, but without any confirmation or denial
10 children from a refugee camp for displaced persons were killed after a series of explosions at a gas terminal in Herat.