Turkmenistan's authoritarian president is reshuffling a rubber-stamp assembly that helps him put policies in place.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov told a session of the Council of Elders on October 9 that it will be transformed into the People's Council, state media reports said.
Berdymukhammedov said the change would enable citizens of different ages and from different social strata to get involved in policy-making.
The move by Berdymukhamedov, who has been in power since the death of his autocratic predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006, comes as the isolated, natural-gas producing Central Asian nation faces economic troubles.
The Council of Elders makes decisions by a simple majority of votes in an open ballot and operates separately from Turkmenistan's parliament -- the Mejilis.
It meets when Gurbanguly wants it to, but at least once a year, rotating among Turkmenistan's regions and the capital, Ashgabat.
The decisions of Council of Elders are officially considered advisory, but it is often used by the president to create the impression of support for proposals that later end up becoming law.
In 2016, the council approved draft amendments to Turkmenistan’s Constitution that abolished age restrictions for presidential candidates.
The amendments were later passed by lawmakers, allowing Berdymukhammedov to seek to remain president for life.