ASHGABAT, December 26 (RIA Novosti) - Turkmenistan's acting President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov was approved as presidential candidate by the Central Asian state's top legislative body Tuesday along with five other contenders.
Berdymukhammedov, 49, deputy prime minister since 2001, tops the list of six candidates approved by the People's Council and selected out of 11 nominees to run for president of the gas-rich country and replace the long-time ruler Saparmurat Niyazov, who died of heart failure last week.
Berdymukhammedov is seen by analysts as the most likely successor to the post, although the Constitution bars an acting president from running for elections.
Onzhik Musayev, first secretary of the only legal Democratic Party, who nominated Berdymukhammedov, moved to justify the decision earlier Tuesday.
He said Niyazov had on several occasions proposed amending the Constitution to allow a deputy prime minister to be acting president in the event of an emergency.
The People's Council has passed the law on presidential elections, which was drafted in 2005, when the People's Council refused to discuss it as Niyazov was Turkmenistan's president for life.
The other contenders, who passed the required threshold of two thirds of the vote in the People's Council, include Ishankuli Nuryev, deputy minister of the oil and gas industry, Abadan Mayor Orazmurat Karadzhayev, and Ashirniyaz Pommanov, mayor of the Caspian Sea port of Turkmenbashi, or Father of the Turkmen, the way Niyazov was referred to in his country.
The council decided Tuesday that the presidential election will be held February 11 and that it will approve election results February 14.
A Russian political analyst said Tuesday some people in the post-Soviet state's political elite were trying to seize power after 21 years of Niyazov's unlimited rule.
"What we are witnessing in Turkmenistan, where power was handed over to the deputy prime minister, rather than the parliamentary speaker in violation of the Constitution, and the acting president was nominated as the main candidate for president are attempts to seize power by part of the elite," Sergei Markov said.
Markov also suggested new leaders would pursue a rather tough line, given methods they were using, and the opposition was unlikely to receive a greater say under a new regime. He said Turkmenistan's vast natural gas reserves would help it preserve ties with the West and Russia, although the Western community could fail to recognize the elections as democratic.