Turkmen Voters Given Two Hours To Cast Ballots In Senate Election

Turkmenistan held its first elections to a newly created senate on March 28 with 112 candidates contesting 48 senate seats.

There were no opposition candidates on the ballot in the Central Asian former Soviet republic, which is considered one of the most repressive countries in the world.

With a cult of personality around the 63-year-old authoritarian ruler, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, dissent is not tolerated in Turkmenistan and all media is under strict state control.

Voters on March 28 had only two hours to cast ballots, between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon local time, at one of six polling stations across the country -- one in the capital Ashgabat and five in other regions.

Turkmen authorities declared within hours of the vote that turnout in the country of 5.8 million people was 98.7 percent of eligible voters.

Foreign observers were not allowed to monitor the polling stations.

Profiles of candidates published by the government newspaper, Netralny Turkmenistan, indicated that most of the candidates in the March 28 vote were civil servants.

Turkmenistan's new two-chamber parliament, known as the Milli Genes, or National Council, will be made up of 56 senators and 125 deputies.

In addition to the 48 candidates to be declared as the winners of senate seats during the next week, Berdymukhammedov also will designate his own choices for eight other senate seats.

With reporting by AFP