Population: 5,200,000
Capital: Ashgabat

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: Turkmenistan held local elections in 2010, but as with all previous polls, the process and results were orchestrated by the authorities. The ruling Democratic Party remained the only registered political party, and the chairman of the Central Election Commission called for President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to keep his post for life. Also during the year, the government continued to cultivate foreign markets and export routes for its abundant natural gas reserves.

Political Rights: Turkmenistan is not an electoral democracy. The late Saparmurat Niyazov wielded virtually absolute power, serving as "president for life" until his death in 2006. None of the country's elections – including the February 2007 vote that gave Niyazov's successor, Berdymukhammedov, a five-year term in office – have been free or fair. A new constitution approved by the National Assembly in 2008 gives citizens the right to form political parties, but only one party, the ruling Democratic Party, is officially registered. Berdymukhammedov made several references to the possibility of forming new political parties in 2010, but no actual changes took place. Local council elections held in July 2009 and December 2010 mimicked the country's previous stage-managed polls amid reports of low turnout. Corruption is widespread, with public officials often forced to bribe their way into their positions. The government's lack of transparency affects a variety of public services, including medical care. An April 2010 report by Doctors Without Borders alleged that Turkmen authorities are concealing "a dangerous public health situation."

Civil Liberties: Freedom of speech and the press is severely restricted by the government, which controls all broadcast and print media. The authorities remain hostile to foreign news services, harassing the few local correspondents. A state-run service provider controls access to the internet and reportedly blocks undesirable websites. The government restricts freedom of religion, and independent groups face persecution. Practicing an unregistered religion remains illegal, with violators subject to fines. The government places significant restrictions on academic freedom, and Niyazov's writings are still used in the school system, although their prominence appears to be declining gradually. The constitution guarantees freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but these rights are severely restricted in practice. While not technically illegal, nongovernmental organizations are tightly controlled, and Turkmenistan has no civil society sector to speak of. There are no legal guarantees protecting workers' rights to form unions and strike, though the constitution does not specifically prohibit such activities. The judicial system is subservient to the president, who appoints and removes judges without legislative review. The authorities frequently deny rights of due process, including public trials and access to defense attorneys. Prisons suffer from overcrowding and inadequate nutrition and medical care, and international organizations are not permitted to visit prisoners. Employment and educational opportunities for ethnic minorities are limited by the government's promotion of Turkmen national identity. Freedom of movement is restricted, with a reported blacklist preventing some individuals from leaving the country. Traditional social and religious norms, inadequate education, and poor economic conditions limit professional opportunities for women, and anecdotal reports suggest that domestic violence is common.

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