Turkmenistan prepares for presidential poll
ASHGABATSome nine candidates will be on the ballot for a presidential poll in reclusive Turkmenistan on Feb. 12, but only one - incumbent president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov - stands a chance of winning.
Among the 59-year-old strongman’s competitors are subordinate regional officials, the director of a government-owned oil refinery and a representative of the Central Asian country’s state agribusiness complex.
These other candidates will probably share “the three to six percent of the vote” not amassed by Berdymukhamedov, predicts Annette Bohr, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Chatham House think tank, according to AFP.
Recent footage from state television saw Berdymukhamedov in relaxed form during a low key pre-election campaign that officially ends on Feb. 11.
One of his public appearances showed him decked in casual attire as he impressed factory workers by strumming along on the guitar to a song state media claims he wrote himself.
State media also says Berdymukhamedov plans to release a collection of songs to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, a popular holiday in the ex-Soviet state.
The grand pledge at the center of his campaign is to “ensure the prosperity of independent, neutral Turkmenistan in the third millennium.”
One-sided votes are typical to Central Asia, a resource-rich majority-Muslim region close to Russia and China where reigning presidents are mostly expected to die in power.
Voters in the capital Ashgabat admitted to knowing little about the other candidates compared to Berdymukhamedov, the heartbeat of state propaganda for the last decade.
“Maybe they are good people, but will they be able to rule our country as effectively? It isn’t clear,” said Nurnepes Khodjamuradov, a 64-year-old pensioner.
“I will cast my vote for the current president,” he told AFP.
The ballot in the gas-rich country follows a September 2016 constitutional fix extending presidential terms from five to seven years and abandoning upper age limits for candidates.
Analysts saw the changes as paving the way for the lifelong rule of an autocrat who took power in 2006 following the death of his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, known as Turkmenbashi, the “Father of the Turkmen.”