Turkmenistan has sought to maintain the system of social benefits inherited from the Soviet era: pensions are paid to men at the age of 60, to women at 55. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of TKM and acronym for Turkmenistan. Health care, as well as child care, is subsidized by the state and employers. There are 24 doctors per 10,000 residents (2010). Child mortality is relatively high; About 5 percent of children die before they turn five (2015). Substantial subsidies exist, as well as electricity, gas and water up to a certain level, and minimum wages have been introduced. In the country there is a rising unemployment rate, which is mainly due to the rapid expansion of the working-age population. Benefits are paid to the unemployed. Agricultural underemployment is considerable, with low incomes in this sector as a result.
According to reports from Freedom House and Committee to Protect Journalists are Turkmenistan one of the countries in the world where freedom of the press is least respected. The role of the press is limited to act as a spokesman for the government and the public’s access to other media such as the Internet is controlled.
At the end of May 2006, Niyázov ordered the construction of a seismic measuring station near the Iran border with the aim of detecting possible nuclear test blasts in the neighboring country. The building took place within the framework of the IAEA, which works for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
On December 21, Niyázov died of a heart attack after ruling the country for 21 years. The Security Council appointed Deputy Prime Minister Gurbanguly Berdymujammedov to serve as provisional president until elections could be held. They were printed by Berdymujammedov himself for holding in February 2007. He got 89% of the vote and continued on the presidential post. The opposition stated that the election had been marked by extensive scams. Following the constitution, the chairman of the People’s Council, Ovezgeldi Atayev, should have been appointed president at Niyázov’s death, but Atayev was charged with crime and removed from his post.
After his accession, the new president repealed a number of his predecessors’ eccentric policies. He abrogated the president’s right to arbitrarily name places, cities and institutions, and reintroduced the traditional names of the months and days. Niyázov had changed the names with references to himself and his mother. At the same time, he allowed the opening of Internet cafes, expanded schooling from 9 to 10 years and allowed the teaching of foreign languages. Despite the reforms, however, he did not change the basic authoritarian character of the regime.
In December 2009, the first gas pipeline opened to China. It happened in Turkmenistan in the presence of China’s President Hu Jintao. Gas exports to China grew rapidly in the following years, so that in 2013 it accounted for 40% of Turkmenistan’s production. Exports to China compensated for a corresponding decrease in exports to Russia. Two more pipelines were under construction – among other things. a pipeline to the Caspian Sea. The country has the world’s second largest gas field, Galkynysh.
Berdymujammedov was «re-elected» as president in February 2012 with 97% of the vote. Reporters Without Borders reported in their World Press Freedom Index from the same year that Turkmenistan is in second place globally in terms of lack of press freedom.
In January 2012, the government passed a new law legalizing political parties – in addition to the government party. In August, the country’s first opposition party was created: the Party of the Industrial Owners and the Self-employed. In February, President Berdimuhamedow was re-elected with 97% of the votes cast.
Despite some Turkmen responsiveness to international human rights organizations, torture continues to be widespread. Torture was formally criminalized in 2012, but authorities still do not intervene in its use. Local human rights work is only tolerated to a very limited extent and takes place with life as an effort.
In August 2013, President Berdimuhamedow abandoned his membership of the TDP. This was done to strengthen his position as country father by standing over politics.