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Archive for Monday, February 12, 2007

Voters pick replacement for late autocrat

February 12, 2007

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— Turkmens voted Sunday in a tightly controlled presidential election whose outcome was all but certain, though the clear favorite has raised hopes of change in a country dominated for more than two decades by the extravagant personality cult of its late autocratic leader.

It was the first presidential vote with more than one candidate in Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic bordering Iran and Afghanistan and whose neutrality and enormous natural gas reserves are of strategic interest to Russia and the West.

All the candidates were from the only legal party, and there were no foreign monitors. Exiled political leaders have not been allowed to return since the Dec. 21 death of Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled for more than two decades.

The head of the elections commission has publicly pledged to ensure the victory of acting President Gurnabguli Berdymukhamedov. He was facing five opponents, all little-known officials chosen by the People's Assembly, the highest legislative body.

Election officials said turnout was nearly 99 percent. Preliminary results were expected Tuesday.

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