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Yearbook 2007

Turkmenistan. In February, Gurbanguli Berdimuchammedov was elected Turkmenistan's new president. He succeeded "the father of all Turkmen", the dictator Saparmurat Nijazov, who had died the year before. According to CountryAAH, Berdimuchammedov was said to have received close to 90 percent of the vote, and participation was said to be over 98 percent. But this was the first time Turkmenistan held presidential elections with several candidates, and European election observers said that although it was not a free and fair election, it was a step forward in view of the authoritarian rule that prevailed in the country so far.

2007 Turkmenistan

President Berdimuchammedov gave the outside world some hope for political openness. He reintroduced pensions, maternity benefits and sickness benefits which the former leader withdrew in 2006. He abolished the compulsion for Turkmenist youth to perform two years of practical work before being allowed to study at university. In addition, the new president decided to reintroduce compulsory schooling for ten years, so that Turkmenistani students can get admission to study at foreign universities. Foreign languages and social studies were brought back to the school schedule after returning to study the former leader's philosophical writings. In February, Turkmenistan's first Internet cafe was allowed to open in the capital Ashgabat.

In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Turkmenistan and signed an agreement with the country's leader and Kazakhstan's president on a new natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan's gas fields on the Caspian Sea through Kazakhstan to Russia. It was seen as a disappointment for the EU, the US and China, all of whom had hoped for future gas imports from Turkmenistan.

In September, President Berdimuchammedov surprisingly attended the UN General Assembly in New York. It was the first time for a Turkmenist leader. In the same month, Berdimuchammedov granted amnesty to 9,000 prisoners. some foreign nationals. In October, the President dismissed the Interior Minister accused of abuse of power and corruption. One sign of the dismantling of the old leader's personal cult was that the portrait of "the father of all Turkmen" in the future should adorn only one banknote denomination instead of, as before, all.

In November, the EU's energy commissioner visited Turkmenistan to discuss direct imports of Turkmenistan gas to Europe. In its quest to reduce dependence on Russian energy, the EU attracted far higher prices than Russia paid Turkmenistan for gas, which was then exported to Western Europe with Russian profits. The EU had no immediate success and after the EU visit to Turkmenistan, Moscow agreed to pay 50 percent more for continued imports of Turkmenistan gas.

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