ASHGABAT (Reuters) - Turkmenistan’s top legislative body approved of acting president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s standing in the February 11 presidential election, making him a top candidate for late President Saparmurat Niyazov’s post.
Little is known about the man who, like most officials who worked under Niyazov, remained in the shadows during his rule.
Below are five key facts about Berdymukhamedov, 49.
* A former dentist, Berdymukhamedov became health minister in 1997 and survived many reshuffles initiated by Niyazov.
* Niyazov appointed him deputy prime minister in 2001.
* Turkmenistan’s opposition activists and media have said Berdymukhamedov could be a close relative of Niyazov, even his son.
* Born in 1957 in a small village in what was then the Soviet republic of Turkmenistan, he studied dentistry at the state medical institute and later worked as a dentist and an academic. Niyazov was 17 when Berdymukhamedov was born.
* Under Berdymukhamedov’s tenure as health minister, Niyazov shut down regional hospitals, saying the country’s 5 million citizens should travel across the country twice the size of mainland Britain to the capital for treatment.