• Reuters

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Turkmenistan amended its constitution on Wednesday in a way that will allow President Kerbanguly Berdymukhamedov to stay in power indefinitely, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, who ruled the gas-rich Central Asian nation until his death.

Amendments approved by the council of elders and the parliament — and immediately signed by Berdymukhamedov — remove the 70-year age limit for presidential candidates and extend the presidential term to seven years from five.

The age limit was the only legal barrier that would have eventually prevented the 59-year-old authoritarian ruler from running and winning one vote after another. Berdymukhamedov’s current, second term ends in 2017.

He has run the isolated desert nation of 5 million since his predecessor, President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, died in 2006. Berdymukhamedov has focused on diversifying the export routes for natural gas, Turkmenistan’s main source of income.

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