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Berdymukhamedov Sweeps Turkmenistan Election

RIA Novosti

12:32 13/02/2012 MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) - Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been reelected for a second term with 97 percent of the vote, the Central Asian country’s election authorities said on Monday.

Berdymukhamedov also holds the posts of prime minister, commander of the armed forces and chair of the energy-rich former Soviet republic’s only political party.

The 54-year-old Berdymukhamedov, a certified dentist, was praised by his seven token challengers in the lead-up to the vote.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declined to send an observer mission to the February 12 elections after criticizing the lack of democratic freedoms.

“There is no private or independent electronic media and publication of the first private newspaper was permitted only recently,” the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said in a report after an assessment mission in December.

“The political space has been characterized by an absence of political parties other than the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, an insufficient separation of powers between different branches of government and a limited respect for basic human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the group said.

Turkmenistan was ranked 176th out of 178 countries in the 2010 press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

Berdymukhamedov promised political reform when he won the last election in 2007, with 89 percent of the vote, following the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, the nation’s first post-Soviet leader.

Niyazov styled himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of the Turkmen, and made himself the center of a personality cult.

The desert nation of 5.5 million people holds the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves.

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