ASHGABAT -- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who has pledged political reforms, says the country's single-chamber parliament, the Mejlis, will merge with the People's Council and become a two-chamber institution.
Berdymukhammedov said at a People's Council meeting that he had signed a decree on the creation of a constitutional commission that will outline the ways to merge the two bodies by the People's Council’s next gathering in 2020.
Berdymukhammedov said that the move is needed "to serve the interests of all social levels of the country," adding that the People's Council will be the reformed parliament's upper chamber. No further details were given.
The People's Council (Halk Maslahaty) in the tightly controlled, energy-rich Central Asian nation was created in 2017 on the basis of the Elderlies’ Council. Berdymukhammedov is the council’s chairman.
The chairman of the Supreme Court, the parliamentary speaker and some lawmakers, members of the government, the prosecutor-general, the chairman of the State Security Council, chiefs and members of regional councils and regional representatives picked by local bodies are among the members of the council.
The move by the authoritarian leader of the former Soviet republic comes amid economic hurdles caused in part to unsuccessful energy deals and low global prices for natural gas, Turkmenistan’s main export.
At the council meeting, Berdymukhammedov was introduced as "an honorable elder of the nation" and received a corresponding badge, document and flowers while wearing the Turkmen national costume.
Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.
Like his late predecessor, Berdymukhammedov has relied on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.