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ASHGABAT (TCA) — Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said that the country's single-chamber parliament, the Mejlis, will be merged with the People's Council to form a two-chamber parliament, Turkmen state media reported.

Berdymukhammedov said at a People's Council meeting on September 25 that he had signed a decree on the creation of a constitutional commission that will outline the ways to merge the two bodies by the People's Council’s next meeting in 2020.

Berdymukhammedov said that the move is needed "to serve the interests of all social levels of the country," adding that the People's Council will be the reformed parliament's upper chamber.

The People's Council (Halk Maslahaty) in the tightly controlled Turkmenistan was created in 2017 on the basis of the Elderlies’ Council. Berdymukhammedov is the Council’s chairman.

The chairman of the Supreme Court, the parliamentary speaker and some lawmakers, members of the government, the prosecutor-general, the chairman of the State Security Council, chiefs and members of regional councils and regional representatives picked by local bodies are among the members of the Council.

The move by the authoritarian leader of the former Soviet republic comes amid economic hurdles caused in part to unsuccessful energy deals and low global prices for natural gas, Turkmenistan’s main export, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

At the Council meeting, Berdymukhammedov was introduced as "an honorable elder of the nation" and received a corresponding badge, document and flowers while wearing the Turkmen national costume.

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the restrictive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

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