Turkmen president wins new 7-year term with nearly 98% of vote
ASHGABATTurkmenistan’s reigning strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov bagged a new seven-year term with nearly 98 percent of a weakly contested vote, electoral officials said on Feb. 13, following a preliminary count.
The election commission claimed at a press conference in the capital Ashgabat a turnout of over 97 percent for the poll, in which eight men viewed as token opponents for Berdymukhamedov also competed.
Central Electoral Commission chief Gulmyrat Myradov did not even mention the shares of the vote gained on Feb. 12 by the other candidates.
But he said: “using this opportunity we would like to congratulate with all our hearts Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on his electoral victory.”
Berdymukhamedov, 59, a former dentist and health minister took power in 2006 after the death of Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmurat Niyazov.
Casting his vote at a school in Ashgabat, the president said the election would decide “the fate of the people for the coming seven years.”
“If I am elected then our policies aimed at improving the welfare of the people will continue,” Berdymukhamedov said.
Last year Berdymukhamedov signed off on constitutional changes that paved the way for his lifelong rule by removing upper age limits for presidential candidates.
Another change lengthened presidential terms from five to seven years.
Voters in Ashgabat overwhelmingly said they were backing Berdymukhamedov.
“I voted for the first time, and chose our president,” said Zokhra, an 18-year old student who was voting at her university.
“We are deciding our future,” said Zokhra, adding that she was handed one of Berdymukhamedov’s books and a bunch of flowers by officials after she cast her vote.
But a number of people in and around the capital told AFP they did not intend to vote, casting doubt on the official turnout figure.
Sabir Rakhmanov, an Ashgabat taxi driver, said he could not participate because he is registered to vote in another region.
“I don’t think my vote would affect anything anyway,” he told AFP.