ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan has published a draft bill on constitutional amendments that offers a possible succession road map for the leadership in one of the most isolated countries in the world.
The bill's text, signed by the authoritarian president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, and carried by state-run media on February 24, formalized turning the single chamber of the Central Asian nation's parliament into a two-chamber institution and putting the head of the upper house as second-in-line for the presidency.
The move comes amid speculation about Berdymukhammedov's allegedly bad health and his efforts to groom his 38-year-old son, Serdar Berdymukhammedov, as his successor.
The younger Berdymukhammedov is currently a lawmaker who has taken on more of a public profile in recent months, fueling speculation that a path is being cleared for him to take over from his father.
Last year, Berdymukhammedov disappeared from public view for several weeks, leading to rumors that he had died or had slipped into a coma during hospital treatment.
The decision to merge the gas-rich country's single-chamber parliament, the Mejlis, with the People's Council and turn the legislature into a two-chamber institution was announced in September 2019.
The draft bill also suggests that the president can be "removed from office ahead of schedule if he is unable to fulfill his duties due to illness."
Berdymukhammedov, 62, who has established a pervasive cult of personality since becoming Turkmenistan’s leader in 2006 after the death of authoritarian leader Saparmurat Niyazov, has said the goal of the constitutional changes was to "further the democratization" of the country.