Berdymukhamedov expected to win Turkmenistan election

Residents look at a presidential election poster depicting the candidates in Ashgabat, TurkmenistanImage source, AP
Image caption,
Observers say the poll is a largely cosmetic exercise

Polls have closed in Turkmenistan's presidential election, with incumbent President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov expected to win another term.

He is facing only token opposition - the seven other candidates have praised him in the run-up to the vote.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has not sent monitors to the poll after criticising the lack of democratic reform.

Turkmenistan is ranked among the world's most repressive states.

An anchor on state television said on Sunday morning that the elections were "the clearest evidence of the irreversibility of the democratic process," according to AFP news agency.

"Aware of their great responsibility for the future of the motherland, the people will choose the most worthy of the eight candidates," the anchor added.

However, with early results expected on Monday, few doubt that Mr Berdymukhamedov will emerge as the winner, the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie reports from neighbouring Kazakhstan.

Personality cult

Mr Berdymukhamedov, the former health minister, promised political reform when he was elected with 89% of the vote in 2007 following the sudden death of his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov.

Mr Niyazov had one of the most bizarre cult personalities in the world, our correspondent says.

Months of the year were named after him and other family members; golden statues of him were erected across the country; and his book on Turkmen history and traditions was made compulsory reading in schools.

But, five years into his rule, Mr Berdymukhamedov appears to have followed in Mr Niyazov's footsteps, our correspondent adds.

His portraits can be seen everywhere, he has written several books about herbal medicine and Turkmen horses, and a military unit has been named after his father.

And just like his predecessor, our correspondent notes, Mr Berdymukhamedov keeps spending billions of dollars of public money on grand construction projects, such as a resort of luxury marble-fronted hotels on the Caspian Sea, which are of little immediate benefit for the population.

Turkmenistan has the world's fourth largest natural gas reserves and has signed billion dollar deals with China.

The European Union is also keen to buy Turkmen gas. Human rights groups have criticised the EU for being willing to do business with one of the most repressive regimes in the world.