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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 December 2006, 11:31 GMT
Turkmen assembly sets poll date
Turkmen TV broadcast a joint session of the State Security Council and the cabinet of ministers
The Turkmen authorities say they are "firmly in control"
Turkmenistan's top legislative body has agreed to hold presidential elections on 11 February following the death of President Saparmurat Niyazov.

The People's Assembly also said Deputy PM Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov would take over the presidency till then.

The council was also due to nominate candidates for the elections.

Mr Niyazov - who styled himself as the Father of All Turkmen - died on Thursday, leaving no political heir and raising fears of instability.

The 2,500-member strong council of clan elders and local government officials voted unanimously to fix the date of the presidential elections.

The delegates travelled to the capital, Ashgabat, from all over the country for the meeting.

Mr Berdymukhamedov said all presidential candidates must follow the path set by Mr Niyazov.

However, exiled Turkmen political figures have vowed to overthrow any new leader who does not introduce reforms.

They have said the opposition will soon announce a single, jointly chosen presidential candidate.

They have also urged Western nations and those of the former Soviet Union to help bring about democratic presidential elections.

New Year cancelled

On Sunday, people filed past Mr Niyazov's body as it lay in state in the presidential palace in Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan's map

Some of the thousands of people who came to pay their respects appeared grief-stricken by the death of their leader.

Many bowed and carried flowers, and some people wept openly as they approached his coffin.

Heads of state from across Central Asia, and high-ranking delegations from elsewhere attended the ceremonies.

A tank carried Mr Niyazov's coffin away from the palace and to the village of his birth outside Ashgabat, where he was buried.

Flags in Turkmenistan are flying at half-mast for a week of mourning, shops and restaurants were closed and New Year celebrations have been cancelled.

Personality cult

During two decades of rule, President Niyazov wielded absolute power and fostered a cult of personality around himself and his family.

He was accused of jailing or exiling his political opponents, creating no functioning political institutions and leaving no obvious successor.

He erected golden statues of himself, banned beards and ballet and renamed January after himself and April after his mother.

Ruhnama, the book he wrote, became the cornerstone of Turkmenistan's education and legal systems. Reading it regularly, Mr Niyazov told his people, would secure them a place in heaven.

His pictures were on display at all street corners, his political opponents were either in jail or exiled, and he formed the basis of the system he had created.

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