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Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader is expected to easily win re-election

Despite the president's claim of a free and fair election, Turkmenistan is a closed society in which dissent is prohibited. Like his predecessor, he has created a cult of personality.

Voters in Turkmenistan headed to the polls on Sunday in an election expected to hand President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov a third term in office, allowing him to maintain his iron-clad grip on power in the isolated gas-rich country. 

The Central Election Commission said more than 74 percent of voters turned out in the first six hours of voting.

Berdymukhamedov, 59, has run the former Soviet republic of 5 million people virtually unchallenged since he gained power a decade ago.

A dentist by training, Berdymukhamedov provided personal dental care to Central Asian country's late dictator and president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov, who died unexpectedly in 2006.

Turkmenistan Denkmal Präsident Gurbanguli Berdimuchamedow (Getty Images/AFP/I. sasin)

The president's monument to himself was built in 2015

Berdymukhamedov claims the election will be free and fair, even though he has maintained Niyazov's repressive political system, which prohibits political opposition or public expressions of discontent, as well as transferring his predecessor's cult of personality to himself.

"Turkmenistan's goal is joining the ranks of the industrially developed nations," Berdymukhamedov told journalists, adding that all candidates had an equal chance during the election campaign.

In the previous election in 2012, Berdymukhamedov won 97 percent of the vote.

bik/tj (Reuters, AFP)

 

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