Turkmenistan leader’s son wins presidential election | Election News

The electoral commission announces after an unusual delay that Serdar Berdymukhamedov obtained nearly 73% of the votes.

Turkmen authorities say the son of the Central Asian country’s leader won the presidential election after an unusual delay in the vote count, establishing a political dynasty in one of the world’s most tightly controlled countries.

Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 40, won 72.97% of the vote in Saturday’s election to lead the gas-rich country and succeed his father Gurbanguly, the Central Election Commission announced on Tuesday.

His closest rival in a field of nine candidates was university official Khyrdyr Nunnayev, who won 11%.

There has been an unexpected wait for the result, after authorities said on Sunday they needed more time to count the votes.

Central Election Committee Chairman Gulmyrat Myradov told reporters that votes were still being counted, including those of people living abroad, and that preliminary results were likely to be released on Monday.

Turkmenistan, a remote country of six million people, usually announces preliminary election results the next day, such as when elder Berdymukhamedov won re-election with more than 97% of the vote in 2017.

No election in Turkmenistan, which became independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has been considered truly competitive.

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov established a personality cult during the last 15 years of his reign [File: Alexander Vershinin/AP]

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 64, announced the vote last month, saying the country should be led by young people.

He had been the country’s leader since being named interim president when the eccentric Saparmurat Niyazov died in December 2006.

The elder Berdymukhamedov established a cult of personality with the title Arkadag, or Protector, and was keen to show off his fitness with stunts, including driving sports cars, target shooting and lifting a barbell weightlifting gold to the applause of his cabinet.

Under his rule, China replaced Russia as the main buyer of Turkmenistan’s vast gas reserves.

“Glorious Path”

Serdar Berdymukhamedov rose through the ranks through a series of increasingly senior government posts and most recently served as the country’s deputy prime minister, reporting directly to his father.

He has just turned 40, the minimum age to become president according to Turkmen law.

“My main goal is to continue on the glorious path of development built for 30 years of independence and to successfully implement programs aimed at ensuring a high level of social conditions for the people,” Serdar Berdymukhamedov said during the presentation of its platform in a televised speech.

Speaking to reporters after casting his vote, he vowed to continue the country’s neutral foreign policy if elected.

During the campaign, all candidates praised Berdymukhamedov’s father, who said he would retain the post of head of the country’s upper house of parliament.

On polling day, folk dancers and singers performed as loud music blared from polling station speakers.

Fumes from burning harmala, a plant widely used in Turkmenistan to fumigate homes and public spaces to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, swarmed the stations.

A woman dressed in the Turkmen national costume votes at a polling station
A woman dressed in a Turkmen national costume votes at a polling station during the presidential elections in Ashgabat [File: Alexander Vershinin/AP]

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