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As Polls Close, Turkmen Government Announces High Turnout


Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
As the polls close in Turkmenistan's parliamentary elections, the government has said the turnout was around 90 percent.

Some 2.5 million people are eligible to cast ballots on December 14 to elect a new, enlarged parliament.

The government, which has 10 days to announce the results, has not come out with any final figures yet.

Some local activist groups, however, said ealier that they doubted the accuracy of the high official turnout figures, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported.

The election, for 125 parliamentary seats, is being held in the framework of a new constitution approved in September.

Turkmen officials are presenting the polls as a step toward democratic reform. The number of seats is being expanded from 50.

But critics have rejected the vote as a sham, noting that there is only one legal party in the country, the ruling party of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. Most of the 288 candidates are members of that party.

In a report last month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said the conditions are not in place in Turkmenistan for the holding of free and fair elections.