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.
Villager injured after collapsed utility pole hits passing pickup truck in Pattani city.
Bomb blast during demonstration against provincial governor in eastern Khost province kills 16, injures 60
Thailand's king has approved a request from the country's junta to lift martial law.
Police say gunmen used 2 toddlers, 1 teenager as human shields after failed attempt to seize businesswoman.
List of 16 replacement ministers nominated after initial candidates rejected by parliament.
Opportunity to present appeal would be final legal avenue for death row inmates after president's clemency refusal.
Misao Okawa attributed longevity to eating 'delicious things' and at least 8 hours sleep a night.
More than 40 countries, including Australia, South Korea, Britain, France, Germany and Italy, have said they would sign up to the AIIB, with Japan and the United States the two notable absentees.
EU lawyers say EU cannot ignore rules on China's new WTO status with EU yet to decide, could favour China to win favour with Beijing
There are few signs of life, save for a stray dog running ahead of a small convoy of journalists being guided by the army.
He could face life in prison or even the death penalty, which is rarely used in South Korea, if found guilty of attempted murder.
"If the negotiations are stuck, all previous efforts will be wasted. All parties must be prepared to meet each other half way to reach an agreement."
His wife was also sentenced to two years prison for wearing a veil and covering her face.
Displaced Pakistanis begin returning to homes in North Waziristan after nine months away
Suggests sanctions could change depending on whether North takes 'concrete action' to address kidnappings of Japan nationals.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is mounting an attempt to airlift nationals from the Yemeni city of Sanaa.