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ASHGABAT: The son of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has won a snap election with 73% of the vote and will succeed his father, establishing a political dynasty in the Central Asian nation.
The victory of 40-year-old Serdar Berdymukhamedov was widely expected after his father elevated him as a deputy prime minister, clearly indicating that he was the designated successor. There are no strong political opposition groups in the gas-rich desert nation of six million which borders Iran and Afghanistan.
Eight other candidates ran in the election, some of them largely unknown low-level public servants. Under the Turkmen constitution, the president is elected for a seven-year term. His nearest rival in a field of nine candidates was university official Khyrdyr Nunnayev, who won 11 percent.
There was an unexpected wait for the result, after authorities said on Sunday they needed more time to count the votes. Central election commission chairman told reporters that votes were still being counted and that preliminary results would likely be reported on Monday.
Serdar Berdymukhamedov is commonly referred to by local media as “the son of the nation,” while his father – who intends to stay on as the speaker of the upper house – is known as Arkadag, or Protector.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 64, announced the vote last month, saying the country should be run by younger people. He had been the country’s leader since he was first appointed acting president when the eccentric Saparmurat Niyazov died in December 2006. Under his rule, China replaced Russia as the main buyer for Turkmenistan’s vast gas reserves.
Serdar Berdymukhamedov has risen through a series of increasingly prominent government posts and most recently served as the country’s deputy prime minister. He recently turned 40, the minimum age for president according to the Turkmen law.
“My main goal is to continue on the glorious path of development built during 30 years of independence and to successfully implement programs aimed at ensuring a high level of social conditions for the people,” Serdar Berdymukhamedov said while presenting his platform in a televised speech. He promised to continue the country’s neutral foreign policy if elected.