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Turkmenistan Announces Democratic Reforms, Presidential Elections in 2009

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Ashgabat, 8 April 2005 (nCa) --- Addressing Thursday an expanded session of the cabinet of ministers, President Niyazov of Turkmenistan announced plans for introducing far-reaching democratic reforms.

The reforms are aimed at bringing in elected officials right from the village representatives up to the president of the country. The programme would click into action by December 2006.

Speaking of the importance of replcing appointed officials with elected representatives, Niyazov said, "The practice of electing the officials would be introduced [in Turkmenistan] in the nearest years."

"This is a recognized practice all over the world and it is the essence of democracy," he underlined.

Turkmen president also informed that he was contemplating some mechanism to groom his successor before the presidential elections that would be the culmination point of the democratic reforms in Turkmenistan.

"I deeply undersand my responsibility before the people and the state and my duty is to provide succession at the highest level of power."

He added, "My decision is not spontaneous. I have spoken about it repetedly in the past Khalk Maslehaty meetings."

According to the sketch outlined by Niyazov, the process would begin by general election of Khalk Maslehaty members at district (etrap) level. The elections would be held from December 2006 to January 2007.

Khalk Maslehaty is the highest legislative and deliberative body of Turkmenistan. It is composed of 2507 members. According to the present legal structure, Khalk Maslehaty outranks the parliament of Turkmenistan.

Within a year of elections of Khalk Maslehaty, district and regional governors would be elected on general ballot. At present these officials are appointed by the government after consultation with provincial governors.

One year after the elections of district and regional governors, parliamentary elections would be held under new arrangements. Parliamentary elections are due in 2008.

President Niyazov said that along with elections of parliament under new rules, its authority would also be expanded.

He also told that by 2008 the list of likely contenders for presidential elections would be visible. Three or four candidates would be on the final short-list.

Presidential elections would be held in 2009, Niyazov announced.

It is understood by Niyazov's remarks that as the democratic reforms move forward, a multi-party political system would gradually appear in Turkmenistan.

"[By the time of presidential elections] a new social culture would have been achieved and the mechanism of multi-party system will appear as a necessary element of the democratic order," said Niyazov.

Details of the proposed reforms would be unveiled during the forthcoming Khalk Maslehaty (Peoples Council) that has been scheduled for 25-26 October 2005, Ashgabat.

The democratic reform plans have been bundled together with the broader agenda of modernization of society and future directions for political and economic reforms.

"We have come a long way. When the history puts new tasks before us, we should define priorities for sorting our problems," said Niyazov.

He said that our society is ready to move toward new ideas - toward the judicious and balanced order that is in harmony with interests, mentality and traditions of Turkmen people.

"These are the inherent features of the democratic nature of Turkmen people," said Niyazov.