ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Turkmenistan's authoritarian president, who has an unchallenged hold on power, on Friday signed a constitutional change to expand the country’s parliament to two chambers.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said the move was “yet another important step toward democratizing our country.”

But the newly created upper chamber of parliament membership won't be chosen by voters. The leadership of each of the country’s regions will appoint members, and a seat is guaranteed for any former president.

The current unicameral parliament, which will become the lower chamber, is chosen in elections. However, Turkmenistan has no true political opposition. All the deputies elected in 2018 support Berdymukhamedov, who has established a pervasive cult of personality in the former Soviet republic since coming to power in 2006.

The constitutional change takes effect on Jan. 1, but it wasn't immediately clear when the new chamber would be formed.

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