Surprise 94% Turnout in Turkmenistan’s Elections

by Joshua Foust on 12/15/2008 · 1 comment

The Fourth Majlis is upon us! ITAR-TASS reports that the latest round of parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan—just completed on Sunday—drew nearly 2.6 million people (2.595 million, or precisely 93.87% of the voting population), making it the legitimatest election Ashgabat has ever dared to hold.

The Commonwealth of Independent States certainly agrees, since they felt comfortable immediately declaring the elections “free and open,” though the CIS webpage devoted to elections is curiously blank in both Russian and English.

More interesting, perhaps, will be the report filed by the OSCE ODIHR monitoring team, which is currently reporting back to Warsaw. Turkmenistan has never had an OSCE monitoring team, at least not one that got this close to an election. Given the tone of their recently released report on human rights defenders in the region, it will probably be interesting to read.

But seriously—when all the candidates are all from the same political party, how free of an election can it be?

Other Considerations: How might this election play into Stomatologbashi’s plans to tackle the “hidden scourges” of narcotics trafficking and drug abuse? It is possible they played a role in the recent (and also unprecedented) Battle of Ashgabat. Are they related? How might the election be related as well?

Final note: For no reason whatsoever, it creeps me out a little bit that the CIS website is hosted in Belarus.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Peter December 16, 2008 at 12:42 am

ODIHR did not deploy a monitoring team, but simply boosted the local Ashgabat with three experts to assist in conducting a review of whether elections were conducted in accordance with national election laws, whatever that might mean. As a result, it is unlikely they will file an election report as such.
The most comprehensive report they have issued, and are likely to, is the needs assessment document from October, which is on their site. That essentially explains the reason ODIHR did not see fit to send a proper observation team (although it does not say so in as many words).
In short, Turkmenistan still has never had an OSCE monitoring team.
Interestingly, Turkmen state media has tried to spin the observers issue to sound as though both the UN and OSCE did deploy proper monitoring missions in order to lend the election some air of internationally sanctioned legitimacy, which is a crude misrepresentation of reality.
On a separate point of fact, it is not wholly exact to say only candidates from one political party stood for election. Other individuals did stand _ with backing from government-run “social movements” _ although only on a platform of fervent support for President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov.
Finally, the CIS website is hosted in Belarus because that is where the organization’s secretariat is based. Nothing particularly odd about that, although it hardly serves to do much for the credibility of the CIS as an evaluator of democratic procedure.

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