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Turkmen Leader Again Advocates Multiparty System

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov addresses the Council of Elders.
DASHOGUZ, Turkmenistan -- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov says he has ordered parliament to draft a law on political parties, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Addressing a meeting of the Council of Elders in the northern town of Dashoguz, close to Uzbekistan, Berdymukhammedov said on May 14 Turkmenistan is ready for a multiparty system.

He said the second party that should be created in the country should be an agrarian party.

The former Communist Party, now known as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, has been the only one effectively permitted to operate in Turkmenistan since it gained independence in 1991.

Political gatherings are illegal unless sanctioned by the government.

Analysts say an agrarian party would technically create a multiparty democracy, but its members would presumably not be entitled to demand changes to the way the country is governed.

Also at the Council of Elders meeting, Berdymukhammedov praised the new Criminal Code approved by parliament earlier this week, which reduces from 25 to 15 years the maximum jail term for serious crimes.

"I believe that the new Criminal Code will meet the demands of the time and help to make punishment for crimes humane in accordance with the international agreements [that] Turkmenistan [has signed] and universal norms of international law," he said.

Berdymukhammedov signed the new Criminal Code into law later on May 14.