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Former Turkmen Official Criticizes Government, Lack Of Democracy

Former Turkmen Culture and Tourism Minister Geldimurat Nurmuhammedov
ASHGABAT -- A former Turkmen cabinet member has criticized Turkmenistan's ruling party for being an "unlawful institution" and for the absence of democracy and human rights in the country, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Former Culture and Tourism Minister Geldimurat Nurmuhammedov told RFE/RL in Ashgabat on December 8 that people are not enthusiastic about the presidential election scheduled for February 12 because President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's Democratic Party of Turkmenistan is the country's only legal party.

Nurmuhammedov, who served as culture minister from 1992 to 1995 when he was also a parliament deputy, said the party is a "tool used to play a trick during elections."

Nurmuhammedov, 59, claimed that the Turkmen parliament, the Mejlis, plays no role in country's political process.

"If someone wants to set up a political party today, there is no legislation for doing so," he said. "There are people who want to create a party. But they are told [by the Mejlis] that 'there is no law on establishing political parties.' Everything is blocked."

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said on December 3 that the presidential election will take place "in a democratic, alternative basis using the principles of democracy, openness, and transparency."

'Human Rights Have Been Buried'

Berdymukhammedov has spoken publicly of permitting some other political parties to be officially established but has not yet allowed that to occur. It is not known who, if anyone, will run against him in the presidential election.

Nurmuhammedov said some of the laws adopted by the Mejlis in recent years are adequate because they have been made in accordance with recommendations by European experts. But he maintained that the country's political officials do not obey the laws they themselves have approved.

"We have to look back at history," he said. "There were many unlawful decisions during the former regime [of President Saparmurat Niyazov] after the country gained its independence [in 1991]."

"Then this cabinet came to power [after Niyazov's death in 2006] and said 'we will follow the way of the former president.' We have to look at the roots of this process. In my opinion, concepts such as human rights, democracy, and fair elections have been buried."

Nurmuhammedov was chairman of the Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Committee of the Presidential Council in 1992 before he was appointed as a cabinet minister.

He is a lawyer and currently serves as an advisor to international companies.