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Kazakh-Turkmen border closed for elections

Feb. 9, 2012 at 11:50 AM

ASTANA, Kyrgyzstan, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The border between Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan is closed ahead of Turkmen presidential elections next weekend, Kazakh authorities said.

Seven candidates are challenging Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. All of the candidates are from Berdimuhamedov's party, the only legal party in the country.

Kazakh border officials were quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as saying the government in Ashgabat had "tightened security measures due to the presidential election and therefore the border will be closed" through Wednesday.

Protesters loyal to the opposition in Kazakhstan demonstrated after the ruling Nur Otan party of President Nursultan Nazarbayev won 80 percent of the vote during January elections. Turkmenistan's elections are scheduled for Sunday.

There is a cult of personality surrounding the Turkmen president, who also serves as the prime minister and commander in chief. Berdimuhamedov, in office since 2006, is expected to win the election.

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