Multiple Candidates, One Winner in Turkmen Ballot

By News Briefing Central Asia - News Briefing Central Asia
23 Dec 11
As of December 20, seven candidates had taken it upon themselves to stand for election the incumbent president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov. None is a true challenger, as all are minor regime officials selected from local government and industry.
There is little pretence that this is anything like a real contest. Berdymuhammedov is expected to win a second term in the February 12 vote.
“The nominations in the regions were authorised by the centre,” a commentator in the central Ahal region said. “Phoney candidates were vetted for their loyalty and then selected by the authorities to create an impression of pluralism," he said.
When an official came round to check names on the electoral roll, one householder in the capital Ashgabat asked who was standing. This resident described how the official “looked surprised and said there was only one candidate, Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov”.
Candidates are being nominated by “initiative groups” at meetings ostensibly open to the public. However, when one local commentator tried turning up for a meeting of this kind, he was not allowed in.
"Although the legislation says elections are transparent, no outsiders are let in and the building is well guarded," he said.
For many, the election is at least an occasion when the president might tell people what he plans to do for them. A pensioner in Ashgabat said he was keen to hear what Berdymuhammedov would do about social problems and utilities, but this was never mentioned in the state-run newspapers, which were packed with congratulations on his decision to stand for another term in office.
An analyst in the western Balkan region conducted a straw poll among local residents to find out what they thought about the election. He found that many were aware the current political system excluded them by denying them an electoral choice.
In Ashgabat, a 30-year-old lawyer was dimly aware that in other countries, voters were offered more of a choice.
"I read on an internet forum that Kyrgyzstan has elected a new president. I discussed it with my colleagues and we concluded that those elections are a improvement on what we have here" he said. "People over there probably aren’t scared of voting the wrong way.”
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.
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