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11 Feb, 2007 22:10

Election turnover in Turkmenistan nears 100%

Election turnover in Turkmenistan nears 100%

Votes are being counted in Turkmenistan, where 98.65% of the electorate turned up to elect a new president. It is the first time there has been more than one name on the ballot papers.

More than 1,600 polling stations were open across the country. The election day resembled a national holiday, with music and dance performances in the streets.

But international observers were barred, and just a few foreign journalists were accredited.

The vote follows the death of so called President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, who had ruled for 21 years.

The favourite to succeed him is Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has been Acting President since December.

But some members of opposition say the election is not democratic. Batyr Mukhamedov, a member of the Turkmenistan United Democratic Opposition, told Russia Today that “Turkmenistan attempts to demonstrate to the entire world that they really have an election with alternative candidates. And we should welcome this kind of development. Nevertheless, if we compare Turkmenistan today with the Soviet Union at the time after Stalin's death, I would say this is April, 1953 for Turkmenistan today. And there will be some changes after Niyazov's death.”