Turkmen president calls on countrymen to start prepare for presidential vote.

9/7 Tass 33

ASHGABAT, July 9 (Itar-Tass) — Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said on Friday the country should begin getting ready for the presidential elections in 2012.

“The task facing ministries and sectoral agencies, public organizations and all citizens is to get well prepared for the presidential elections and hold them at the highest level, in an atmosphere of openness and transparency that will prove that democracy is gaining in force,” he said at a government session.

“Much has changed in our country and in the rest of the world since the last elections (in February 2007),” he said. “And I can say with confidence that we have arrived at the presidential elections with an utterly changed mentality and new thinking.”

He said he hailed a multi-party system in the country, which over the 20years of its independence has seen only one party, the Democratic Party led by the president. “We have laid a legislative basis for a multi-party system,” he noted. “However we shall not be in a hurry to arbitrarily create any parties. We shall not support unjustified reproduction of parties. I believe two efficiently working parties enjoying popular support and respect will suffice to ensure competition.”

Berdymukhamedov for the first time openly voiced his stance on the Turkmen opposition abroad. “We are not afraid of cooperation with groups which call themselves opposition,” he stressed. “If any of the opponents want to take part in the forthcoming presidential vote, he can come to the country. I guarantee that they, like other citizens of our country, will enjoy equal possibilities to take part in the elections.”

However, it is highly unlikely that any of the opposition leaders will take the challenge. Most of them have been living outside the country for more than 10 years, while the Turkmen constitution says a country’s president shall be “a Turkmen citizen not younger than 40 and not older than 70 years of age, who speaks the state language and who has been permanently living and working in the country for at least 15 years.”

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