Turkmenistan Polls Open To Choose President

Voting has begun in Turkmenistan's presidential election, with incumbent President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov expected to win another term.

Observers say the poll will be a largely cosmetic exerciseVoting has begun in Turkmenistan's presidential election, with incumbent President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov expected to win another term.

He is facing only token opposition - the seven other candidates have praised him in the run-up to the vote.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has not sent monitors to the poll after criticising the lack of democratic reform.

The country is ranked among the world's most repressive states.

Mr Berdymukhamedov has ruled the country for past five years and has absolute power in the country, the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie reports.

His portraits can be seen everywhere - from interiors of aircrafts to hotel lobbies and restaurants, our correspondent adds.

But an anchor on state television said on Sunday morning that the elections were "the clearest evidence of the irreversibility of the democratic process," according to AFP news agency.

"Aware of their great responsibility for the future of the motherland, the people will choose the most worthy of the eight candidates," the anchor added.

Turkmenistan has the world's fourth largest natural gas reserves and has signed billion dollar deals with China.

The European Union is also keen to buy Turkmen gas. Human rights groups have criticised the EU for being willing to do business with one of the most repressive regimes in the world.