Turkmenistan. According to
Countryaah, President Gurbanguli Berdimuchammedov tried
to present Turkmenistan as a country on the path to
democracy, but the outside world saw most cosmetic changes.
At the end of the New Year, a new law was issued prohibiting
censorship and a formal permit for press freedom, but the
state's control of the media continued with the president as
co-owner of the major newspapers.
However, since last year, the country had a second party
alongside the ruling Turkmenistan Democratic Party. It was
the Party for Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, who in a
filling election in June got their leader in parliament. It
was the first time a member who did not belong to the ruling
party was elected to Parliament.
During the year it was announced that the country's
schools no longer have to use the former dictator Saparmurat
Nijazov's spiritual writing in teaching. Reading the strange
Ruhnama ("The Book of the Soul") used to be crucial for
graduating, getting a state job or taking a driver's
license. Then the status of the book dropped, and now it
would be replaced in the teaching of literature on different
cultures in the world.
When President Berdimuchammedov came to power, he gave
the impression of wanting to dismantle much of the personal
cult his representatives built up, but during the year he
appeared in a number of contexts which showed that he
himself seemed to create a similar eccentric image. TV
showed him on watercraft, in sports car, playing guitar and
performing surgery. His books on medicine and horses also
received much attention.
When Berdimuchammedov took part in a horse race at the
annual party in April in honor of the famous Achalteke
horses, it was nearing a catastrophe. The president's horse,
of course, won but threw after the finish of the rider, who
with little margin managed to be trampled down by other
galloping horses. The president was taken away by ambulance
but returned, apparently unscathed. Foreign journalists
invited to view the president's skill as a horse man were
invited to erase their films of the incident. But everyone
did not obey the call.
During the year, the president decided that a monument
should be built for his representative Nijazov's favorite
horse, Glowing Mountain, which has been depicted in
Turkmenistan's state arms before. A reader of the
independent website Krono wondered why nothing is being done
to honor the victims of Nijazov's repression.
The President ordered government employees and students
to engage in mass gymnastics during the week of Health and
Happiness. He also decided during the year on a four-year
state program to develop cycling in the country. In August,
government employees and students were ordered out on
bicycles, and when the president "won" a bicycle race, the
entire population was invited to buy bicycles for a mass
cycling in September for health and the environment.
In October, the president handed out huge cash prizes in
an annual competition for artists, writers and amateur
singers, and most of the awards went to those who sang the
president's praise. Poets and pop singers described him as
the Protector, the most common epithet, or the Great Leader.
At the same time as sneaky scenes revealed how the
president scolded and humiliated, he declared in July that
the closest employees achieved excellent results during the
first half of the year and were worth ten days off. In
previous years he has distributed expensive cars in similar
ways, while most of the residents of the gas-rich country
live in poverty.
The president announced the parliamentary elections for
the two parties until December, declaring that politicians
and officials should not be members of the ruling party. He
himself announced his resignation from the Turkmenistan
In the election, the ruling Democratic Party took 47 out
of 125 seats, and the other allowed party got 14. The rest
went to the regime's various support groups. The opposition
was forbidden to participate, and its leaders lived in
exile. According to Amnesty, the election did not change the
regime's "total repression".