The year of 2009 marks a threshold for the newly-elected Mejlis (parliament) of Turkmenistan. Nothing extraordinary has happened from the official point of view. The Mejlis of Turkmenistan of the fourth convocation got down to business. However, speaking about the current composition of the Mejlis, one has to repeatedly use the phrase "for the first time".
The new Constitution of Turkmenistan adopted in September 2008 has brought significant changes to the work of the supreme legislative body of Turkmenistan. According to the new Constitution, the number of deputies of the Mejlis increased from 50 to 125 who are elected for five years from single member constituencies with approximately equal number of electorate. If in the old parliament the majority of deputies combined their law making duties with official duties, the parliament of the fourth convocation is a fully professional parliament with more powers.
Now the Mejlis has the power to adopt the Constitution, make amendments and changes to it, discuss and approve programmes on major directions of political, economic and social development of Turkmenistan, take decisions on nationwide referendums, on election of president, members of parliament and local councils, ratification and denunciation of international agreements, changing state borders, and address issues of peace and security.
International observers were invited for the first time to monitor the conduct of parliamentary elections. The biggest group was the mission of CIS observer who highly rated the election campaign and conduct of elections. The CIS mission consisted of 40 observers from national parliaments, central election commissions, bodies of state authority and state management of CIS countries, the executive committee of the CIS. The invitation of CIS observers was regarded as a good will gesture by Turkmenistan's leadership guided by aspiration for the further democratization of society, ensuring transparency of elections, openness for the international observation of election processes.
Citizens of Turkmenistan living abroad were for the first time given the opportunity to participate in the parliamentary elections. Polling stations were established at the embassies of Turkmenistan abroad for thousands of fellow countrymen.
The first session of the Mejlis was convened on 9 January. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov addressed the supreme legislation body for the first time.
According to him, the Mejlis is expected to create a new national legislation concerning political, economic, social and cultural spheres. This concerns, first of all, the laws on land, water, labor, criminal procedure and civil codes. Among priority tasks of the Mejlis the president highlighted the need to set up a legislative basis for gradual transition to market relations as well as further improvement of laws aimed at strengthening the private sector of economy.
The president also stressed the need to set up laws that nurture civil dignity, honesty, modesty, decency and love of homeland among people and protect our society from such negative phenomena as drug addiction, alcoholism, dissolution of morals.
In accordance with the results of secret voting at the first session of the parliament of Turkmenistan of the fourth convocation, Akja Nurberdiyeva was elected chairperson of the parliament of Turkmenistan. She was chairperson of the national parliament of the third convocation since February 2007. The Mejlis of Turkmenistan also passed resolutions on setting 5 parliamentary committees. These are the committees on protecting human rights and liberties; on issues of science, education and culture; on socio-economic issues; on international and inter-parliamentary relations; on dealing with local councils and self-governing bodies.
Changes in the system of the supreme legislative authority of Turkmenistan did not go unnoticed by the international community. As many observers noted, Turkmenistan proved its reputation as a country which has set on a path of democratic reforms. It is clear that efforts are made to change the way of forming the legislative authority and give it qualitatively new powers. It also did not go unnoticed that limits and possibilities of representation of people in the bodies of state authority of Turkmenistan were expanded considerably under the new Constitution of Turkmenistan. Local authorities in all big constituencies of Turkmenistan as well as bodies of self-governance in small settlements were given extra powers.
It will be quite soon that the new system of organization of the supreme legislative body of Turkmenistan will bear fruits as there will be introduced new laws designed to facilitate the fast economic and social growth of the country.