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Turkmenistan profile


President: Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov

image captionPresident Berdymukhamedov is serving his second term

Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov secured a second five-year term in February 2012, winning more than 97% of the vote. In the election, Mr Berdymukhamedov faced several other candidates from his own party, all of whom expressed their support for him.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declined to send a mission to monitor the poll, saying there was little point given the limited freedoms and lack of political competition in the country.

Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov took office as president after winning elections in February 2007 with 89% of the vote.

There were six candidates in that poll, all from the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan. Exiled figures from the Turkmen opposition were banned from competing, and human rights groups and Western diplomats condemned the election as rigged.

image captionState media lionise horse-made President Berdymukhamedov as a sporting leader

Weeks later the president was chosen as chairman of the People's Council, Turkmenistan's highest legislative body. He was the only candidate.

A former deputy prime minister, Mr Berdymukhamedov became acting president after authoritarian leader Saparmyrat Niyazov died in December 2006. Mr Niyazov had been in power since Soviet times.

His nomination for the presidency surprised observers because under the constitution the post should have gone to People's Council chairman Ovezgeldy Atayev. However, after Mr Niyazov died Mr Atayev became the subject of a criminal investigation and was sacked.

The new president promised to continue the policies of his predecessor but also to introduce reforms, including unlimited access to the internet, better education and higher pensions.

Soon after coming to power, he restored pensions to more than 100,000 elderly citizens, reversing President Niyazov's decisions to withdraw them the previous year.

He has dismantled aspects of his predecessor's personality cult, but in part only to introduce the beginnings of one of his own. Already, a new mosque was named after him in 2009, and bookshops are full of Mr Berdymukhamedov's own works.

The promise of unlimited internet access has also proved to be a hollow one. By June 2010, only 1.6% of the population was estimated to have access to the internet.

Once Mr Niyazov's personal dentist, Mr Berdymukhamedov became Turkmen health minister in 1997 and deputy premier in 2001. One of his tasks was to implement Mr Niyazov's closure of most medical facilities, which brought public health care to the point of collapse.

Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was born in 1957.