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Turkmen president quits top party

AFP-JIJI

Turkmenistan’s president announced Saturday he was stepping down as leader of the ruling party while he remained in office to promote a multiparty system in the isolated former Soviet state.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told a party congress that he was resigning as leader of the ruling Democratic Party, which he has led since 2006, because he wanted to remain above party politics, according to television footage broadcast Saturday evening.

Berdymukhamedov, a dentist by profession, took power in 2006 after the death of his father, eccentric dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who erected a golden rotating statue of himself as part of a bizarre personality cult.