Incumbent Wins Reelection in Turkmenistan’s Presidential Poll with 97% of the Vote
February 14, 2012
By: Rebecca Aaberg | Printer Friendly
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov won reelection in Turkmenistan on February 12 with 97 percent of the vote, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. The second place finisher, Minister Energy and Industry Yarmukhammet Orazgulyev, received just 1.2 percent. More than 96 percent of the 2.7 million registered voters cast ballots, and all candidates were members of the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan. Although the country held elections Turkmenistan is classified as “Not Free” by Freedom House and received the lowest possible score for political rights and civil liberties in the 2012 edition of its annual Freedom in the World report.
Although the country accepted 60 domestic and foreign observers for the election, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) was not invited to participate. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a Moscow-led organization, praised both the election and its outcome, citing “no complains of irregularities.”
The international community has expressed concern for democracy in Turkmenistan. The United States (US) Department of State identified Turkmenistan as an “authoritarian state” in the 2010 edition of its annual human rights report. The report stated that the president of Turkmenistan enjoys absolute power over the state and that “widespread corruption existed in all social and economic sectors.” According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Turkmenistan promotes a “cult of personality” around Berdymukhammedov. The leader was recently given the title of “Arkadag,” which means “Patron,” at a military ceremony in 2010. In 2011, he was bestowed with “Hero of Turkmenistan,” Reuters reported. The BBC reported that Berdymukhammedov has named months of the year after himself and his family members and built golden statues in his image around the country.
Few avenues exist for criticism from the opposition in Turkmenistan. According to the US Department of State, domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are illegal. Reuters recognized high levels of repression, including a state-controlled media and the exile of the political opposition. Although Berdymukhammedov said that opponents would be invited back to the country to contest the vote, no move has been made to do so.
Berdymukhammedov took office in 1999, following the death of “president for life” Saparmurat Niyazov. In 2007, he won the presidential election with 89 percent of the vote. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that Berdymukhammedov promised to diversify the economy, which is heavily reliant on oil and natural gas sales. He also reopened hospitals, restored pensions, and increased internet access. However, while he is regarded as less authoritarian than his predecessor, Berdymukhammedov continues to “crackdown on free speech and the political opposition.”
BBC - Berdymukhamedov wins Turkmenistan Election in Landslide
Freedom House – Freedom in the World 2012
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – Turkmen President Reelected with 97 Percent of Vote
Reuters – Turkmenistan’s “Patron” Only Recognized Candidate
United States Department of State – Human Rights Report for Turkmenistan 2010