Turkmenistan Votes In Presidential Election

Published February 12, 2012 6:54AM (EST)

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Voting has begun in Turkmenistan's presidential election in a race designed to cement the incumbent's hold on power in the authoritarian Central Asian nation.

The seven candidates running Sunday against President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov have all made praise for the energy-rich former Soviet nation's leadership a central plank of their campaigns.

Berdymukhamedov, a 54-year-old trained dentist, was elected to his first term with 89 percent of the vote in 2007, weeks after the sudden death of his eccentric, iron-fisted predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Berdymukhamedov came to power amid hopes of a gradual loosening of the country's closed political system, but those expectations have largely been dashed.

By Salon Staff

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