The only legally registered party in the republic is the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, which is what the Communist Party renamed itself in September 1991. Seeking to bring together most major cultural, religious, and public groups in a wider political bloc, in early 1994, Niyazov created a National Revival Movement, which he heads. Unregistered parties are tiny and have been severely repressed. Many of their leaders have been forced into exile or arrested. Most significant is the "Agzybirlik" (Unity) popular front. Banned in 1990, it mostly consists of Turkmen intellectuals and backs democratization and ties to Turkey. Opposition figure Avdy Kuliyev, former foreign minister, is in exile. Physician Pirkuli Tangrikuliyev announced that he wanted to create an opposition party and would run in the 1999 Mejlis election, but he was arrested and convicted of corruption. In late December 1999, a constitutional change was enacted naming Niyazov president for life.
In late 2002, opposition leaders and international observers said fissures were appearing in Niyazov's regime and that frustration is growing among ordinary people. Opposition and human rights leaders met in Washington, D.C., Vienna, and Moscow, and identified what they called an "awakening of social consciousness" in Turkmenistan.