After hints that long-time President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov plans to resign, Turkmenistan announced an early presidential vote will be held on March 12, a Central Election Commission official reported to Reuters Saturday.
Berdymukhamedov, 64, has run the gas-rich Central Asian nation since 2006 with sweeping powers and no effective opposition. His 40-year-old son Serdar, a deputy prime minister, is seen as a likely successor.
Berdymukhamedov, whose current term was set to end in 2024, is also the prime minister of the former Soviet republic and the speaker of the upper house of parliament.
In a speech to the upper house late on Friday, Berdymukhamedov said he had made "a tough decision" and decided that it was time to give way to "young leaders" in the running of the state.
A series of promotions given to his son Serdar – who has served as a diplomat, member of parliament, minister and a provincial governor – has prompted speculation that the president was grooming him as a successor.
Known as a fan of local Alabai dogs and Akhal-Teke horses, to which he has dedicated state holidays and erected monuments, Berdymukhamedov is commonly referred to as Arkadag (Protector) by the media in the former Soviet republic which borders Afghanistan and exports gas to China and Russia.