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Turkmenistan: Parties Unite To Oppose President, Promote Democracy

Ashgabat, August 12 (RFE/RL) -- Several political parties in Turkmenistan have united in hopes of forging a viable opposition to President Saparmurat Niyazov, who has ruled the country since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Some 100 delegates took part in the founding conference of the new Social Democratic Party in the capital Ashgabat last Thursday, reports an RFE/RL correspondent. The delegates met in secrecy in the Central Asian nation, where Niyazov maintains tight control.

The "People's Freedom Party" and "Party of Justice" are expected to play key roles in the new party's affairs.

Participants said the country's worsening economic situation--some 90 percent of Turkmenistan's population live in poverty--called for a new political party that would promote democracy, and, in the words of the participants, move the country away from totalitarianism.