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article imageMagnanimous Turkmen strongman promotes vote rival

By AFP     Feb 28, 2017 in World

In a generous gesture following an electoral victory in which he scooped 97 percent of the vote, Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has promoted his closest electoral rival, state media reported Tuesday.

Maksat Annanepesov, 43, who came in a clear second with 1.02 percent, has taken up the position of chairman of the state food industry association, state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan said.

Prior to the February 12 vote in this Central Asian country which has no tradition of competitive elections he was the association's deputy chairman.

During the election campaign, Annanepesov focussed on farming, stressing the need for bettering livestock productivity "in order to improve provision of food" while Berdymukhamedov vowed to "ensure the prosperity of independent, neutral Turkmenistan in the third millennium."

All of Bedymukhamedov's eight challengers were on hand to vigorously applaud the strongman at a pomp-filled inauguration in the capital Ashgabat on February 17.

The 59-year-old will now not face the inconvenience of presidential elections until 2024, following changes to the constitution in September.

In addition to extending presidential terms from five to seven years, the constitutional fix stripped away the upper age limit for presidential candidates, paving the way for his lifelong rule for this former dentist who took power in 2006.

There are golden statues of both Berdymukhamedov and his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan's first president, in the capital Ashgabat, where natural gas wealth is flaunted in lavish, grandiose white marble architecture, even as other parts of the country suffer from poverty.

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