Turkmenistan is voting in a parliamentary election on Sunday, with a choice of three parties and some independents, but all the candidates are ultimately loyal to President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, leader of the gas-rich nation. One of the candidates is the president’s son, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, regarded by observers as a potential successor to the 60-year-old leader, who is referred to by local people as Arkadag, or Protector. Although the vote takes place against the backdrop of foreign currency shortages brought on by a drop in gas exports, there are no opposition parties in the former Soviet republic of six million. Polling stations greeted voters with national music and dance shows, and snacks.
“The election is a real holiday for us, which will bring peace, prosperity and stability,” said Maskat Muratdyrdyev, 26, head of a provincial polling station not far from Ashgabat.
Official data shows almost a quarter of registered voters had cast their ballots by 9 a.m. (0400 GMT), within the first two hours of voting.
Not everyone was enthusiastic, though. “I have three kids to feed, gasoline prices have gone up and everything has become more expensive,” said taxi driver Mergen, 36, who said he would not vote.