Turkmenistan is a presidential republic; the country’s first president was Saparmurat Niyazov, also referred to as Türkmenbaşy, meaning Leader of Turkmen. He retained absolute power over the country and ruled until his death in 2006. His absolute power was also expressed in some rather eccentric ways, e.g. by officially renaming the months of the year after members of his family or by banning smoking in all public places when he himself stopped smoking.
Since 2006 and until today, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the former vice president, is president of Turkmenistan. And although the traditional names for the months and days of the week were reinstated officially two years after Niyazov’s death, the basic political situation remains the same. There is no outcry by the world community partially because the country is very remote, but also because the government is clearly not supportive of Islamists and last but not least Turkmenistan holds vast reserves on gas and oil.
In 2006 the European Commission and the international trade committee of the European Parliament voted to grant Turkmenistan “most favoured nation” trading status with the European Union, widely seen as motivated by interest in natural gas, after Niyazov announced he would enter a “human rights dialogue” with the EU.