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Turkmenistan heads to polls for parliamentary elections

Voters in Turkmenistan are casting their votes to pick new members of the country’s parliament.

Polling began on Sunday at more than 2,600 stations at 7 am (0200GMT) and will end by 7 pm (1400GMT).

Almost 3.5 million citizens are registered to vote, while 42 ballot boxes have also been set up in Turkmenistan’s diplomatic missions abroad.

Apart from 125 lawmakers of the unicameral parliament, called the Mejlis, voters will also choose members of the national and local councils and other local government bodies.

As of 3 pm (1000GMT), turnout for all categories was around 75%, the electoral authority said in a statement.

At least 175 candidates from three parties – the Democratic Party, the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and the Agrarian Party – are vying for a seat in the Mejlis, along with the 83 candidates from civil groups.

Some 515 candidates are in the running for the 240-member People’s Council, or Halk Maslahaty, and 2,001 candidates are competing for 960 seats in local people’s councils.

Another 12,098 people are in the race for 5,897 spots in local government bodies.

READ MORE: Will Turkmenistan’s gamble to hand leadership from father to son pay off?

The winners will serve for five years.

The elections are being followed by local observers, as well as representatives of UN institutions, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Organization of Turkish States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In 2021, Turkmenistan introduced a bicameral legislative system, with the Halk Maslahaty and the Mejlis forming the upper and lower house of what was known as the National Council of Turkmenistan.

However, the country switched back to a unicameral parliament this January, when the Halk Maslahaty was made an independent body and all legislative authority was handed over to the Mejlis.

Turkmenistan is led by President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 41, who succeeded his father, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

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