More than seven months after Turkmenistan held what were, in democratic terms, unnecessary parliamentary elections, the results are there.
In its finale report During the March 26 vote, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) vote-scoring body issued a predictable litany of criticism.
The ODIHR, as the body is known by its initials, can usually praise technical problems in sweetening the drug, but even that was lacking.
Beyond the lack of competitiveness, the stifling control exercised over the media, the non-existence of real choices and the absence of voter engagement, observers noted that many electoral staff had little understanding of their job and that the legal framework for conducting the vote was inadequate. Disconcertingly for an election without competition, ODIHR observers discovered multiple indications of ballot stuffing.
Not only does Turkmenistan not know – or not want to know – how to hold fair elections; he doesn’t even know how to pretend to organize fair elections.
There is no evidence that the country’s international partners are too worried.
OSCE Chairman-in-Office Bujar Osmani visited Turkmenistan and met with numerous senior officials, including President Serdar Berdimuhamedov, on October 9, the day the final election report was released. Given how little public information has been made available, it does not appear that the flawed election was even brought up in the conversations.
Osmani, who is also North Macedonia’s foreign minister, met for the first time during his visit Dunyagozel Gulmanova, the speaker of the Mejlis, as the lower house of parliament is called. Although the Mejlis is, according to the OSCE’s own vote observers, a hollow and unrepresentative body formed by a sham process, Osmani hailed it as “an important partner for the implementation of OSCE initiatives “.
This inadvertently tells a rich story about the value of “OSCE initiatives” in Turkmenistan.
Berdimuhamedov certainly seems satisfied. Knowing that there was little chance that his remarks would be challenged, he spoke to Osmani on how Turkmenistan “attaches great importance to respect…human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law” and how – wink – “interaction with the ‘OSCE in this direction will continue in the future.’
In the real world, even the most basic rights of Turkmen citizens are violated, as evidenced by the extreme difficulty many experience in obtaining international travel documents.
As Turkmen service of RFE/RL, Radio Azatlyk, reported As of October 16, the number of people applying for passports in Lebap province is apparently now so high that it is not even possible for applicants to present their papers for the document until May 2024.
This is not a matter of bureaucratic lethargy. The authorities are clearly obstructing people from being able to freely leave the country, as is their right. In September, Azatlyk reported that immigration authorities refused to accept applications from people with Soviet-issued birth certificates, which meant that those people then had to go through a lengthy process of updating that document. The channel also reported in the Balkan province the increase in the rejection of applications from people with children who are still minors or from those who were not able to provide documents confirming the absence of criminal records among their relatives for three generations.
The OSCE also helps Turkmenistan in the area of travel documents. Not on how to issue them more transparently, but on how detect their fraudulent use – as if Turkmen passport control needed a pretext to prevent people from leaving or entering the country.
Preventing people from traveling to Turkmenistan is something the government does by default and effortlessly.
It appears that the Turkmen Golf Federation wrote a letter dated October 11 to promising participants in the Ashgabat Golf Cup tournament, which was scheduled to take place this week, informing them that the event has been postponed until next year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The existence of the letter was initially reported by the Russian website Golf.rubut the article has since been removed.
Returning to the subject of the Amsterdam-based Mejlis website Turkmen.news carried entertainment article Earlier this month, we focused on how the House is populated by, to use the language of the publication, work-shy “parasites.”
One name to remember in this room is that of Aylar Nuryeva, a recent university graduate who seems to have earned her place thanks to the fact that her father was deputy foreign minister, Vepa Khadzhiyev. Nuryeva is currently on maternity leave.
Others, like Atamurat Muradov, also benefited from nepotism, but were forced to be smart to stay in favor. Muradov’s older brother, Gochmurad, was dismissed as deputy prime minister in February 2020.
As Turkmen.news As Muradov explained, all he did in his job as Parliament’s press secretary was call into state media and stand aside while MPs gave interviews in front of the cameras. Once Muradov’s brother was excluded, the MP was forced to prove his relevance. In a moment of inspiration, he began to write information sheets for MPs addressed to television journalists.
“The trick worked: Muradov is now considered a valued specialist and no one is talking about his dismissal,” the website concludes. The legislator’s achievements are such that he regularly receives state awards, Turkmen.news reported.
The rewards also go the other way. State media reported On October 10, President Berdimuhamedov received the Arkadag medal – so named in honor of his father, the former president – in recognition of his “worthy contribution to the successful implementation of the humane social policy of the ‘State “. The resolution to award the medal was adopted by the Mejlis.
Akhal-Téké is a weekly Eurasianet column compiling news and analysis from Turkmenistan.
This article was first published on Eurasianet here.