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First Results Expected In Turkmen Elections

People cast their ballots in front of a portrait of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at a polling station in Ashgabat on December 15.
ASHGABAT -- Votes are being counted following Turkmenistan's first multiparty parliamentary elections, with preliminary results expected soon.

A member of an election observer mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) said the elections were "free" and adhered to "democratic principles."

Speaking from Ashgabat by telephone, the official -- who requested anonymity -- told RFE/RL that CIS election observers had visited nearly half of all polling stations.

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov cast his ballot along with his parents -- Myalikgyly and Ogulabat Berdymukhammedov -- in Ashgabat's Gunesh voting station.

Berdymukhammedov said he "firmly believes the elected lawmakers will live up to the expectations of voters."

Election officials said turnout was 91.3 percent.

An RFE/RL correspondent in Ashgabat reports that many voters cast multiple ballots on behalf of their family members, while election officials looked on.

Another correspondent in northeastern Lebap Province said turnout was low despite efforts by the authorities, who organized concerts at polling stations to attract voters.

Local residents, however, complained of "loud music that woke them up at 4 a.m."

There was no real competition, as both the ruling Democratic Party of Turkmenistan and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs created last year, as well as several other groups also on the ballot, all pledge allegiance to Berdymukhammedov.

The elections were the first in the country attended by a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

With reporting by and AFP