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BBC central Asia correspondent Louise Hidalgo
"No democratic tradition"
 real 28k

Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 08:59 GMT
Turkmen poll controversy

President Saparmurat Niyazov President Niyazov: Ignoring international concern


Voting is taking place in Turkmenistan to elect a new parliament - but the poll is largely being shunned by the international community.

Most candidates for the 50-seat Medzhlis belong to the ruling Democratic Party of President Saparmurat Niyazov.

The remainder are independents, as all other political parties are banned.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has criticised the country's lack of democracy. It said even the most basic requirements of a democracy did not exist.

The poll is also being overshadowed by the personality cult surrounding President Niyazov, who enjoys almost total power.

The election will do nothing to challenge his authority and there are already moves to make him president for life.

BBC central Asia correspondent Louise Hidalgo says that could isolate the country even further.

No justification

Despite the international criticism, President Niyazov says Turkmenistan does not have to justify itself to anyone.

A Turkmen electoral official has insisted the vote will be democratic, saying that at least two candidates were contesting each seat.

But no foreign observers have gone to Turkmenistan to monitor the polls.

The only observer will be the head of the country's Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, who is himself standing for the Medzhlis.

He has been quoted as saying there is no need for opposition candidates because they offer Turkmenistan only empty words.

Five-year term

The Medzhlis is elected for a term of five years. Polling stations opened at 6am local time (0100 GMT) and will close at 8pm (1500 GMT).

A candidate needs to secure 50% of the vote to be elected. If a candidate fails to win the necessary number of votes and is not running unopposed, the two candidates with the highest number of votes take part in a second round.

Final results and the complete list of winning candidates are to be published no later than 10 days after the election

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27 Oct 98 |  Asia-Pacific
Turkmenistan celebrates independence

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