With less than two months before the February 12 presidential elections in Turkmenistan, 14 rival candidates have now appeared on the scene in the last week, following the announcement of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s nomination December 15.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the opposition website gundogar.org have reported on these predictable figures selected from reliable ministry bureaucrats, provincial government administrators and factory managers to compete against the incumbent… All of them were nominated by state-controlled industrial or civic groups. The State News Agency of Turkmenistan has maintained enthusiastic coverage of this simulated of democracy with declarations like this:
This meeting like all activities in this most important social-political campaign for the elections of president of Turkmenistan took place under conditions of glasnost’ and openness, which once again vividly reflected the opportunity, established by law, for citizens of our country to freely and fully realize their constitutional rights.
There may be more surprises to come in this already over-crowded field, however, as candidates can register for up to 25 days before election day. They must gather 10,000 signatures from at least a third of Turkmenistan’s cities and towns.
All the nominations meetings have gone along without a hitch, for figures that are already completely under presidential control. Their main purpose, besides creating the illusion of competition to Berdymukhamedov, may actually be to showcase his purported reforms in various areas such as agriculture and construction. Knowing what we know of the Turkmen leader’s intimate and close control of architecture, a local official known for following orders would be the perfect foil.