Turkmenistan launches 'discussion' on extending president's term

The ex-Sovient state launched a "public discussion" over constitutional changes to extend the president's term

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Turkmenistan on Monday formally launched a “public discussion” over constitutional changes to extend the president’s term and drop the age limit for candidates.

State media in the energy-rich ex-Soviet state on Monday backed moves to boost presidential terms from five to seven years and scrap the 70-year age limit for candidates.

If passed, the changes look set to strengthen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s nine-year grip on power in the authoritarian central Asian country.

The next polls are set for 2017, when Berdymukhamedov’s current five-year term ends and the president, now 58, will face re-election.

The public discussion, seen as a formality, will involve extensive coverage in state newspapers but no referendum.

It will end October with a meeting of the council of the elders, a consultative body that has never opposed a standing president.

In the presence of the elders, lawmakers from the country’s rubber stamp parliament will vote on the changes to the constitution, already amended five times since it was adopted after independence in 1992.

Berdymukhamedov, a dentist by training, came to power in 2006 following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, an eccentric dictator known as “the father of the Turkmen”.

He set about dismantling Niyazov’s bizarre cult of personality – while creating space for his own.

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