Turkmenistan [BBC backgrounder] adopted a new law on Thursday for regulating presidential elections that changes the qualifications potential candidates must satisfy. The law says that an individual must be either backed by a political party or collect at least 50,000 signatures [AP report] to qualify as a presidential candidate. The previous law required that a potential candidate receive approval from an advisory board established by former president Saparmurat Niyazov. The Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (DPT), which was previously called the Communist Party of the Turkmen SSR, is the country's ruling and only legal political party. Current president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov [BBC profile] is the leader of that political party and is not expected to face challengers in the upcoming election.
Turkmenistan has been undergoing a transitional phase as it attempts to emerge from its authoritarian past as part of the Soviet Union. Turkmenistan gained its independence upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country adopted a new constitution [JURIST report] in 2008, which envisioned a new multi-party political process and provided for limits on presidential power. Political reforms in Turkmenistan came after President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, who remained in office for 21 years, died in 2006 [BBC obituary]. The government has been cited by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights [advocacy website] for widespread interference in judicial affairs, as well as using torture, and suppressing political opposition, the media, and civil society.