11 july 2020

Central Asia news

Turkmenistan: the first election in 16 years

12.02.2007 10:12 msk

Vremya Novostei

Politics Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan elected its president yesterday, for the first time in this century. The only previous such event took place in 1991 when Saparmurat Niyazov was elected the head of state. He eventually became known as Turkmenbashi the Great and passed away on December 21, 2006.

From voters' standpoint, the election yesterday is certainly something to be remembered. Not because it was the first time when they had to make a choice. And not because The Ruhnama, a book by the late leader, was given to young voters at polling stations. It will be remembered because when the sun is shining, the temperature is 20 degrees Celsius, and free pancakes are available right in the streets, daydreaming about changes for the better becomes particularly pleasant. Changes for the better is what Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov promises his fellow Turkmens. He will be proclaimed the winner tomorrow and sworn in at a solemn inauguration to become the president the day after.

Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Fradkov will fly to Ashkhabad tomorrow to attend the ceremony. Ukraine will be represented at the highest level too (no wonder since its energy security depends on stability of gas import from Turkmenistan).

The only intrigue of the election comes down to the figures with which Berdymuhammedov will outperform the other five candidates for president, to how close to the absolute 100% his inevitable triumph will be. Judging by the turnout (98.65%), the triumph of the man already officially hailed as a "companion-in arms of Turkmenbashi the Great" will be impressive indeed. As for the promises to voters he has been making, at least one of them was kept yesterday. Turkmen TV stations broadcast opera yesterday, the kind of entertainment the late president had banned many years ago.

Arkady Dubnov

Vremya Novostei, February 12, 2007, p. 1

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru