Turkmenistan holds parliamentary elections under new president

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
2 min read

Parliamentary polls opened on Sunday in Turkmenistan, a gas-rich country that does not tolerate political dissent or a free press.

The vote is the first under the Central Asian nation’s new presi-dent, who took power following a hereditary succession last year, and comes after the abolition of the legislature’s upper house and the creation of a supreme body.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Polling stations opened at seven am (0200 GMT) and will close at seven pm (1400 GMT), according to an AFP correspondent in the capital Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic, is one of the world’s most repressive, secretive states and little is known about how the regime makes day-to-day decisions.

For nearly two decades, the country has been ruled by one family, and no election has been judged free or fair by Western poll observers.

Former dentist and health minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power in 2006, succeeding the country’s founding president Saparmurat Niyazov after his death.

Berdymukhamedov, who established a strong cult of personality during his tenure, handed the reins over to his son Serdar last year after a token snap election, but kept his position as chair of the upper house of parliament.

In January, the 65-year-old proposed abolishing the upper house -- created at his request in 2021 -- and setting up “a supreme representative body of people’s power”, the Halk Maslahaty or “People’s Council.”

He was named head of the new body and observers say Berdymukhamedov senior -- also called Arkadag or “Protector” -- remains the real holder of power.

The new council’s remit covers the main directions of Turkmenistan’s domestic and foreign policy, overshadowing the unicameral national assembly and its 125 members.

Since stepping down, Berdymukhamedov senior has met several foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin last year, and a new city is being built in his honor.

Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most closed-off coun-tries, and according to Reporters Without Borders ranks 177th out of 180 countries for press freedom, ahead of Iran, Eritrea, and North Korea.

Its economy depends hugely on gas exports to China and to a lesser extent Russia and Iran.

Read more: Turkmenistan moves to further consolidate power of ex-president

Top Content Trending