Fourteen Stalking-Horses for Turkmen President
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||4 January 2012|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Fourteen Stalking-Horses for Turkmen President, 4 January 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f06cfcc2.html [accessed 30 June 2015]|
As Turkmenistan's president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov prepares to stand for reelection on February 12, he faces 14 challengers, in what some observers see as an attempt to create a semblance of competition.
Most candidates were nominated by "initiative groups" – in theory, members of the public who made their own selection. On paper, that looks like an improvement on 2007, when Berdymuhammedov was first elected, because then candidate selection was conducted by the Halk Maslakhaty, a national assembly that was subsequently abolished.
In reality, the initiative groups were carefully put together to ensure no surprises. Each one was led by a member of the Galkynysh movement, whose national body nominated Berdymuhammedov for reelection in December. The numbers were made up by people "volunteered" from the public sector.
A schoolteacher from the Mary region of southeast Turkmenistan described how terrified he was when he was instructed to join a group tasked with nominating Murad Charykuliev, director of the Maryazot chemicals plant. He was only slightly reassured when local government and electoral officials told teachers they would not get into trouble with the Ministry for National Security for doing so.
A participant in another group which nominated Energy and Industry Minister Yarmuhammed Orazgulyev for the presidency said everyone knew what part they had to play.
"It was a well-rehearsed performance," he said.
A reporter in the northern Dashoguz region said the Turkmen security service kept a close eye on the selection process just in case.
"They always have their eyes and ears at these events," he said. "Initiative group participants are aware of this and try to do whatever they're told."
It is unclear who the authorities are trying to convince by lining up alternative candidates. Promises that opposition figures based abroad would be allowed to stand, or that new political parties would be sanctioned, came to nothing.
"It's quite obvious that these [initiative] groups were created on the government's instructions," Vyacheslav Mamedov, head of the Netherlands-based Civil Democratic Union of Turkmenistan, said. "They are a component in an election projected conceived and implemented by the president's entourage."