Turkmenistan mulls constitution changes extending presidential term

The speaker of ex-Soviet Turkmenistan`s pliant parliament has proposed constitutional changes extending the presidential term limit and removing the maximum age for the presidency, state media reported Friday.

Ashgabat: The speaker of ex-Soviet Turkmenistan`s pliant parliament has proposed constitutional changes extending the presidential term limit and removing the maximum age for the presidency, state media reported Friday.

The amendments -- which look aimed at expanding the already iron grip of 57-year-old incumbent strongman President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in the gas-rich republic -- would increase the presidential term from five to seven years and remove the presidential age limit of 70 from the constitution. 

Turkmenistan, which has no limit on multiple terms for a standing leader, will hold presidential elections in 2017.

"This proposal is witness to the universal support of the people for the positive policies of the head of state and the readiness of the Turkmen people to rally even more closely around the leader of the nation Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov," Parliament speaker Akdja Nurberdieva said. 

The move comes hot on the heels of the unveiling of a 21-metre golden statue of Berdymukhamedov on horseback in Ashgabat on Monday, that many see as part of the leader`s growing personality cult. 

Turkmenistan is regularly blacklisted as one of Freedom House`s "Worst of the Worst" list of repressive countries for its lack of civic liberties.

Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist who came to power after the death of predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, last faced re-election in 2012 when he won with 97 percent of the vote in a ballot decried by international monitors. 

Eccentric former ruler Niyazov himself developed a pervasive cult of personality that saw him rename months after his family members, erect statues of himself and make a book he wrote a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

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