The government of Turkmenistan is divided into three branches--the
executive branch headed by the president, the legislative branch
consisting of the National Assembly (Milli Majlis), and the judicial
branch embodied in the Supreme Court. A People's Council nominally
has the ultimate power to oversee the three branches. A Council
of Elders exists as an advisory body to the government, everyday
affairs of which are conducted by a Cabinet of Ministers appointed
by the president.
The office of president (türkmenbashi , "Leader of
the Turkmen") was established in conjunction with the ratification
of the 1992 constitution. The president functions as head of state
and government and as commander in chief of the armed forces,
serving for an elected term of five years. Presidential powers
include the right to issue edicts having the force of law, to
appoint and remove state prosecutors and judges, and to discontinue
the National Assembly if it has passed two no-confidence votes
on the sitting government (Cabinet) within an eighteen-month period.
The government is administered by the Cabinet of Ministers, who
are appointed by the president with National Assembly approval.
Niyazov, who was president of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic
at the time of independence, is a Turkmen of the Teke tribe who
was born in 1940. Trained as an engineer, Niyazov rose through
the ranks of the Communist Party of Turkmenistan, reaching the
top of the party hierarchy as first secretary in 1985. During
his tenure, Niyazov remained aloof from glasnost and
perestroika , the reforms of CPSU First Secretary Mikhail
S. Gorbachev, even terming Gorbachev's program "pseudo-reform."
When Moscow hard-liners attempted to unseat Gorbachev in the coup
of August 1991, Niyazov refrained from condemning the conspiracy
until after its failure was certain. After his appointment as
president of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in October
1990, Niyazov ran as an uncontested candidate in the republic's
first presidential election in June 1991, winning over 99 percent
of the vote. From that position, he presided over the declaration
of independence in October 1991. The 1992 constitution of the
independent Republic of Turkmenistan called for a new presidential
election, which Niyazov won in June 1992. In January 1994, a referendum
extended his presidency from a five-year term to a ten-year term
that would end in the year 2002; of the 99 percent of the electorate
that voted, officially only 212 voted against the extension.
The 1992 constitution provides for a legislative body called
the National Assembly, a body that retains the structure and procedures
of the Soviet-era Supreme Soviet. The body's fifty members are
elected directly to five-year terms, and they are prohibited from
holding other offices during their tenure. The National Assembly
is charged with the enactment of criminal legislation and approving
amendments to the constitution. It also ratifies legislative bills
introduced by the president, the Cabinet of Ministers, and individual
members of the National Assembly.
Established by the 1992 constitution, the Supreme Court comprises
twenty-two judges appointed by the president to five-year terms.
Of the three branches of government, the judiciary has the fewest
powers; its prescribed functions are limited to review of laws
for constitutionality and decisions concerning the judicial codex
or Supreme Law.
The 1992 constitution also established the National Council
(Halk Maslahati) to serve as "the highest representative organ
of popular power." Intended to unite the three branches of government,
it comprises the president of Turkmenistan; the deputies of the
National Assembly; members of the Supreme Court, the Cabinet of
Ministers, and the Supreme Economic Court; sixty people's representatives
elected from the districts specifically to the National Council;
and officials from scientific and cultural organizations. Members
of the National Council serve for five years without compensation.
This body meets at the request of the president or the National
Assembly, or when mandated by a one-third vote of its members.
Functions of the National Council include advising the president,
recommending domestic and foreign policy, amending the constitution
and other laws, ratifying treaties, and declaring war and peace.
In theory, its powers supersede those of the president, the National
Assembly, and the Supreme Court. However, the council has been
described as a kind of "super-congress of prominent people" that
rubber-stamps decisions made by the other national bodies, in
most cases the executive.
Council of Elders
In addition, the constitution created the Council of Elders,
which is designed to embody the Turkmen tradition of reliance
on the advice of senior members of society in matters of importance.
According to the constitution, the president is bound to consult
with this body prior to making decisions on both domestic and
foreign affairs. The Council of Elders also is assigned the task
of selecting presidential candidates. Its chairman is the president
Data as of March 1996