Turkmenistan, a presidential republic with a single political party, belongs to the Community of Independent States. The country has a constitution since 1993 that formally establishes a democracy. However, it is considered by the UN as one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships.
Since independence, president Saparmyrat Nyýazow monopolized power at every bureaucratic level until his death on 21st of December of 2006. His successor, Gurbangulí Berdimujamédov, held elections on 11th of February of 2007 and was elected with 89.2% of the vote. According to official statistics participation reached 98.65%. However, opposition candidates denounced fraud. Turkmenistan has signed several UN treaties related to human rights, but there is no other political party in the country apart from the official one (The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan), nor is there the posibility of a critical voice without persecution or harassment. The two main economic resources in Turkmenistan are cotton (it has reached in the past 10th position on the world stage) and oil. The country has important reserves of gas and petroleum. The oil and gas sectors share of the economy has increased as oil prices have risen and desertification has destroyed cotton fields. Due to its isolation from the main energy consumers, the country depends on its neighbors for transport, which creates tensions – particularly with Russia,which, through the company Gazprom, distributes 2/3 of total Turkmenistan gas exports. During the presidency of Nyýazow, most of the profits obtained were spent on programs to improve the appearance of the capital and the cult of the president, the population not seeing any significant benefit. In 2004 the index of unemployment was around 60%, the percentage of population below the poverty line being approximately the same, according to 2003 statics. According to a presidential decree of the 14th of August 2003, water, gas, electricity and salt must be provided by the government.