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Turkmenistan's Niyazov Marks 20 Years In Power

The leader known as "Turkmenbashi" gained power in 1985 (AFP) 21 December 2005-- Turkmenistan today was marking the 20th anniversary of the day Saparmurat Niyazov was appointed to be the leader of the Soviet republic of Turkmenistan.

Celebrations were held in the capital, Ashgabat, and in all provincial centers.

Government officials went to the new mosque in the village where Niyazov was born, Gipchak, and laid flowers at the grave site of Niyazov's relatives.

On 21 December 1985, Niyazov was appointed first secretary of the Communist party of Turkmenistan. He was elected president of the Turkmen Soviet republic in October 1990 and then president of independent Turkmenistan in an uncontested poll in June of 1992.

Turkmenistan's parliament gave Niyazov the title of "Turkmenbashi," or the head of all Turkmen, in 1993. Niyazov has been accused of instituting a cult of personality in Turkmenistan. He has final say in all matters of policy, both domestic and foreign, and portraits and statues of Niyazov are visible throughout the country.