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                                        Volume. 11877

Turkmenistan votes in legislative polls
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_01_Turkmenistan99.jpgThe ex-Soviet Central Asian state of Turkmenistan on Sunday held its first multi-party legislative elections, but with no opposition to trouble the dominance of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
 
According to AFP, Turkmens headed to polling stations in the gas-rich country after polls opened at 7:00 am local time (0200GMT) to choose 125 candidates for the seats in the Majlis, or parliament, for the next five years.
 
Challenging the ruling Democratic Party of Turkmenistan is the Party of Industrialists and Businessmen of Turkmenistan, founded in August 2012 in a bid by Berdymukhamedov to have some kind of political system develop in the country.
 
"These parliamentary elections will demonstrate the extent of developing democracy and civil society in our country," Berdymukhamedov, who is popularly known as "Arkadag" or "Protector", said on the eve of the vote.
 
Berdymukhamedov himself won a new presidential term in February 2012 with 97 percent of the popular vote.
 
Polling station officials on Sunday presented first-time voters with gifts, giving red roses to females and notebooks adorned with the Turkmen national emblem to males. Children singing as well as New Year's ornaments contributed to the festive atmosphere.
 
Some three million people were eligible to vote. The last legislative elections were in 2008, where the Democratic Party was the only party standing. 
 
Berdymukhamedov's critics say pledges of democracy are designed for a critical West, whose companies are eager to develop Turkmenistan's natural gas reserves, the world's fourth-largest. Berdymukhamedov himself eyes new gas export routes to ease dependence on former imperial master Russia.
 
So far, the world's biggest energy consumer China has supplanted Moscow as the main importer of Turkmen natural gas via a pipeline launched in 2009.
 
Coming to power in 2007 shortly after the death of his authoritarian predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, whose cult of personality ran to naming a month after himself, Berdymukhamedov promised democratic changes including a role in politics for opponents.

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