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Turkmenistan: New Constitution

(Oct. 2, 2008) On September 25, 2008, a new Constitution was adopted in Turkmenistan. This new basic law of the Central Asian country stipulates that the highest existing representative body, which had passed the Constitution, is dissolved, charges a parliament with full legislative authority, and declares the establishment of a multiparty system. The Constitution provides for a definite division of powers between the President and the legislature, which will include 125 members elected from territorial districts under a majoritarian electoral system for five-year terms. The candidates may be nominated by political parties, public organizations, and groups of citizens.

The Constitution provides that the Parliament has the power to pass laws; amend the Constitution; approve the state budget; set dates for elections of the President, members of the legislature, and local governing bodies; and ratify or reject international treaties. The Parliament also renders binding interpretation of laws and determines the constitutionality of legal acts issued by the executive branch of government. Based on the conclusion reached by an independent medical commission, Parliament may decide on an early termination of a President's term of office for reasons of health. It will appoint one of the Deputy Prime Ministers to be the acting President if the President cannot execute his functions. The previous rule that the acting President cannot run for the office of President remains in force.

Under the new Constitution, the President is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. The previous requirement that the President be an ethnic Turkmen is lifted, but the candidate must have lived in the country for 15 years before the elections. The President is the head of the executive branch of government and can dissolve the legislature only if the Parliament is deadlocked on the election of the Speaker. Further political reforms aimed at the improvement of relations between the President, Parliament, and the Cabinet of Ministers are expected. (Alexander Vershinin, Turkmenistan Adopts a New Constitution, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Sept. 26, 2008, available at