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Turkmenistan sets Feb. 11 date for election replace late authoritarian leader

Turkmenistan sets Feb. 11 date for election replace late authoritarian leader

Turkmenistan's top legislative body said on Tuesday it was setting Feb. 11 as the date for elections to replace longtime authoritarian leader Saparmurat Niyazov, who died last week.
The date was set by the People's Council, about 2,500 lawmakers who were either elected or appointed.
The council also began selecting candidates who would run for president. Representatives of the country's five regions and the capital Ashgabat were to put forward two nominations each, which then had to be approved by the council.
The first four candidates _ a deputy energy minister, a deputy sports chief and two regional officials _ were little-known politicians seen as necessary to create an appearance of a pluralistic election.
Acting President Gurbungali Berdymukhamedov said last week that the presidential election would be held "on a democratic basis that has been laid by the great leader" _ seen as an indication that Turkmenistan does not plan a free vote.
Turkmenistan has only one legal political party _ the Turkmenistan Democratic Party _ and opposition is tightly suppressed. Opposition leaders living abroad have said they intend to return to Turkmenistan following Niyazov's death, but have not succeeded.
Questions about how closely the constitutional procedures would be followed arose within hours of the announcement of Niyazov's death. The Constitution says the speaker of Parliament should become acting president, but the role was taken by Berdymukhamedov, the deputy prime minister, and a criminal case was opened against the Parliament speaker.
Berdymukhamedov's unexpected rise to acting president sparked speculation of an internal power struggle.
The constitution says the acting president is not allowed to run for the full office _ but the People's Council has the right to change the constitution.
Election Chief Murad Kariyev told the council on Tuesday that the election will be fair and open to foreign observers. He also said that transparent ballot boxes would be used in the vote.
Stability in Turkmenistan is of interest to both the West and Russia. Turkmenistan has enormous natural gas reserves and occupies a geographically strategic position, bordering both Afghanistan and Iran.


Updated : 2021-05-19 07:29 GMT+08:00