ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan’s president on Tuesday ordered an end to free natural gas, electricity and water, which residents of the ex-Soviet nation have enjoyed for a quarter century.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said the move would encourage a more rational use of the Central Asian nation’s resources. The decision comes as the gas-rich desert nation has faced economic troubles because of a slump in global energy prices.
Berdymukhamedov has ruled Turkmenistan since late 2006, when he assumed power after the death of his eccentric autocratic predecessor, who had named the months of the year after his family members.
Berdymukhamedov has established an elaborate personality cult of his own, with state media showing his prowess in an array of physical disciplines, including horse riding, racing cars, cycling and lifting weights.
The constitution was amended to extend the presidential term to seven years from five and eliminate the age limit of 70, effectively allowing Berdymukhamedov to be president for life.
Also on Tuesday, the Turkmen parliament revised the nation’s constitution to set up the People’s Council that will take over key legislative functions. Next year, the new body will also take over duties from another organ, the Council of Elders.
The Council of Elders on Tuesday named Berdymukhamedov the Hero of Turkmenistan for the second time.