Turkmenistan's authoritarian President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has cemented his rule in the Central Asian state, winning a new five-year term with more than 97 percent of the vote.
The 54-year-old incumbent also is the country's prime minister, commander of the armed forces and head of the only political party. He swept to victory over seven token challengers, all of whom praised Mr. Berdymukhamedov's leadership during their campaigns.
The Central Elections Commission in Ashqabat said Sunday's vote was free and fair, illustrating Turkmenistan's national unity. No observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were present for the election.
Turkmen authorities said nearly 97 percent of the country's 2.9 million registered voters cast ballots.
Energy-rich Turkmenistan, a country of 5 million people, is bordered by the Caspian Sea, Iran and Afghanistan. Russia, China and many Western governments are vying for a share of its vast natural gas reserves, said to be the fourth-largest in the world.