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Turkmen Vote For New Parliament Members

The parliament is wholly loyal to President Niyazov (file photo) Ashgabat, 19 December 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Voters in Turkmenistan elected a new parliament today. Official figures say 77 percent of the electorate cast ballots.

That's down compared with the official figure of 99.6 percent in elections five years ago. The elections are widely viewed as a sham, with the Turkmen parliament functioning as a rubber-stamp body since the country gained independence in 1991.

Fifty seats in parliament were at stake. However all candidates are loyal to the government, which is led by the country's president for life, Saparmurat Niyazov.

Turkmenistan, situated along the Caspian Sea, has large reserves of oil and gas.

For in-depth information about the elections, including details about the candidates and the parties, see Turkmenistan Votes 2004(NCA/dpa/ap)