Some nine candidates will be on the ballot for a presidential poll in reclusive Turkmenistan on Sunday, but only one — incumbent autocrat Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov — stands a chance of winning. Among the 59-year-old strongman’s competitors are subordinate regional officials, the director of a government-owned oil refinery and a representative of the Central Asian country’s state agribusiness complex. These other candidates will probably share “the three to six percent of the vote” not amassed by Berdymukhamedov, predicts Annette Bohr, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia programme at the Chatham House think tank. Recent footage from state television saw Berdymukhamedov in relaxed form during a low key pre-election campaign that officially ends on Saturday.
One of his public appearances showed him decked in casual attire as he impressed factory workers by strumming along on the guitar to a song state media claims he wrote himself. The grand pledge at the centre of his campaign is to “ensure the prosperity of independent, neutral Turkmenistan in the third millennium.”
State media also says Berdymukhamedov plans to release a collection of songs to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, a popular holiday in the ex-Soviet state.
One-sided votes are typical to Central Asia, a resource-rich majority-Muslim region close to Russia and China where reigning presidents are mostly expected to die in power.