Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Turkmenistan's interim leader to stand for presidency on Feb. 11

Turkmenistan's interim leader to stand for presidency on Feb. 11

Turkmenistan's top legislative body on Tuesday gave the country's interim leader approval to run for president to succeed the late authoritarian leader.
Acting President Gurbungali Berdymukhamedov and five other candidates won approval to participate in the Feb. 11 presidential election to replace longtime leader Saparmurat Niyazov, who died last week.
The decision was made by the People's Council, about 2,500 lawmakers who were either elected or appointed.
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. Niyazov ruled the isolated Central Asian nation for 21 years with an iron grip.
Under the existing constitution, the acting president was not allowed to run for the full office _ but the People's Council changed the constitution to clear his candidacy.
Earlier Tuesday, the council selected potential candidates who could 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.
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.
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.