Agence France-Presse

Turkmenistan swears in President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov for a second term after 'predictable' poll

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President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov speaks in Turkmenistan's capital Ashgabat in Oct. 2011. On Feb. 17 he was sworn in for a second term.

Credit:

Igor Sasin

Turkmenistan's President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, has taken the oath of office after securing 97% of the votes in last Sunday's election.

AFP reports that his second term was pronounced at a grand ceremony, during which he declared:  "I, Gurbanguly Myalikgulyevich Berdymukhamedov, assuming the office of president of the neutral state of Turkmenistan, swear to abide by the Constitution and by Turkmen law," the second-term president pronounced at at a grand ceremony.

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Berdymukhamedov ran against seven candidates, but the news agency says they were all loyal members of the elite and his closest contender got just 1% of the vote.

"Most political scientists who have looked at the country say the results were final months ago," the New York Times commented.  "But, by the standards of Turkmenistan, where a repressive former leader spun an elaborate personality cult for decades before his death in 2006, Sunday’s election did represent progress. It was the second in the country’s post-Soviet history to feature more than one candidate, and the result was not unanimous," it adds.

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Berdymukhammedov, a qualified dentist nicknamed 'Arkadag' (Turkmen for 'the protector'), will now serve another five-year term as president of former Soviet Republic.

His predecessor,  Saparmurat Niyazov or 'Turkmenbashi', was Turkmenistan’s first president after independence, died in December 2006, after ruling for 21 years.

Radio Free Europe says that although Berdymukhamedov reopened rural hospitals and relaxed restrictions to internet access, he has inherited Niyazoz's intolerance of dissent and free speech.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the official news agency described the elections as "the culmination of an era of great changes started five years ago," saying Turkmenistan had voted for its "leader-creator", AFP says.

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