Turkmenistan President re-elected with 97% of vote

Election winner Berdymukhamedov

If you’ve been grumbling about Russia’s elections, spare a thought for those poor unfortunate souls in the democractic wasteland that is Turkmenistan. For they have apparently re-elected Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov as their President with a spectacular 97% of the vote, based on a 96% turnout.

The result is a dramatic improvement on Berdimuhamedov’s performance in the 2007 Presidential election, where he only scored 89% of the popular vote, and can probably be attributed to the fact that all seven of his opponents praised his performance as President over the past five years.

Berdimuhamedov still has a way to go, though, if he wants to match the 99.5% of the vote that his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. Of course, the late great Turkmenbashi took the added precaution of ensuring that he was the only candidate.

Turkmen election makes my “heart rejoice” says Russian CIS boss

Observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States duly reported back to give the election a clean bill of health with Sergei Lebedev, the CIS Executive Secretary telling reporters that his “heart rejoiced” at the way the election had been conducted.

None of the other organisations that traditionally observe elections bothered to send anyone, so convinced were they that the election would be a farce. According to the OSCE, “conditions were not suitable for a vote-monitoring mission”.

No official reaction from the Russian Government yet, but expect it to be warm and congratulatory.

Better, but not by much

Although it’s easy to be cynical about the elections in Turkmenistan, which are very clearly fixed, it is worth noting that there have been some improvements in the country since the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan’s former President For Life. Having said that, by anyone else’s standards, they’re pretty limited. The BBC’s Rayhan Demytrie writes:

“The president did allow the internet into the country – but access is tightly controlled. Websites such as Facebook and YouTube are banned, and private internet connections can cost up to $6,900 (£4,354) a month. [However...] In internet cafes, visitors have to show their passports and register in a logbook.”

There’s some interesting analysis of this over at Registan.net, where Joshua Foust argues that Turkmenistan seems to have been given a bit of a free pass by the US and EU, especially compared to other countries in the region. Perhaps because Turkmenistan was such a basket-case under Turkmenbashi that any kind of progress was to be welcomed.

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