ASHGABAT -- Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has been registered as a candidate for a second term in Turkmenistan's February 12 presidential election, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.
Berdymukhammedov -- who has been given the title "arkadag" (protector) -- was officially registered on January 3 after being nominated as a candidate by the Democratic Party, the only legal political party in Turkmenistan and headed by Berdymukhammedov.
He was also reportedly suggested as president by several state-run labor unions, a state youth organization named after Turkmen poet Makhtumguli, a war veterans organization, the Women's Union of Turkmenistan, and other groups.
The February vote will be only the second time in Turkmenistan's history as an independent country that a presidential election will be held with more than one candidate officially in the running.
Berdymukhammedov won the first such election in 2007 with some 89 percent of the vote against some unknown opponents who did not campaign in the election.
Berdymukhammedov's predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov, won the only other presidential election in Turkmenistan when he ran unopposed in June 1992.
The seven candidates competing against Berdymukhammedov in February's election are the head of the Lebaprurlushyk production association, Esenguli Gaiypov; director of the Geotepe textile mill, Saparmyrat Batyrov; Deputy Energy and Industry Minister Yarmukhammet Orazgulyev; the deputy head of the Dashoguz region, Recep Bazarov; Turkmengaz department head Kakageldy Abdullayev; Turkmennebit manager Gurbanmamed Mallanyyzov; and Water Economy Minister Annageldy Yazmyradov.
Western election-monitoring organizations have never sent observers to an election in Turkmenistan because they do not approach international standards in being free and fair.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has been in talks with Turkmen authorities about monitoring the February election but it has not yet decided whether or not to send observers.
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