Moscow The parliament of Turkmenistan ruled Tuesday that the Central Asian country's acting president and five other people - none of them from the exiled opposition - can run for president in an election it set for Feb. 11.
Opposition groups denounced the decision and called on the United States and the European Union to press for a genuinely open contest to replace former president-for-life Saparmurad Niyazov, who died unexpectedly last week after 15 years of authoritarian rule.
The selection of acting president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov as a candidate, despite a constitutional provision barring an acting president from running, appeared to strengthen Berdymukhammedov and his backers as a largely invisible power struggle unfolds.
The selections were made by the People's Council, a legislative body of 2,507 elected and appointed members that Niyazov had packed with loyalists. The council had to amend the constitution to include Berdymukhammedov as a candidate.
Niyazov, who called himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of all Turkmens, had wielded dictatorial power in Turkmenistan since the country became independent in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. No obvious successor had emerged before his death.