Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, 59, has run the former Soviet republic of five million people for a decade amid slow economic growth and falling exports.

Sunday's presidential polls in Turkmenistan saw a turnout of 97.27 percent. February 12, 2017.
Sunday's presidential polls in Turkmenistan saw a turnout of 97.27 percent. February 12, 2017.

Turkmenistan's Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov will be president for seven more years after he secured a third term in office by winning Sunday's public ballot, the Central Election Commission said on Monday.

Berdymukhamedov has won 97.69 percent of the vote with a turnout of 97.27 percent, it said.

Turkmenistan amended its constitution in 2016 in a way that could allow Berdymukhamedov to stay in power indefinitely, removing the 70-year age limit for presidential candidates, and extending the term to seven years from five. This consolidation of power has been taking place against a background of slowing economic growth and a shortage of foreign currency due to Russia's decision to halt imports of Turkmen gas, Ashgabat's main source of export revenue.

Berdymukhamedov, 59, has run the former Soviet republic of five million people with an iron fist for a decade after succeeding the equally autocratic president-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov who died in 2006.

In the previous election in 2012, Berdymukhamedov won 97 percent of the vote.

TRT World's Andrew Hopkins reports from Ashgabat, the capital.

"Successful campaign against drug abuse"

Berdymukhamedov cast his ballot at a downtown polling station in Ashgabat after arriving with his family.

"Turkmenistan's goal is joining the ranks of the industrially developed nations," Berdymukhamedov told reporters, adding all candidates had had equal opportunities in the election campaign.

Eight other candidates ran against Berdymukhamedov. All of them are public servants, managers of state-owned companies or nominees of political parties loyal to the government.

"He is carrying out a successful campaign against drug abuse and promised to provide free housing for the disabled," said Zukhra, a 42-year-old medical worker who supported the president.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies