Turkmenistan, well-known for its scenic beauty and vast natural gas reserves, held voting for its parliamentary elections that were in place on Sunday, March 26. An estimated 91.12 per cent of the approximately 3.5 million voters turned out to cast their votes.
The election occurred nearly a year after Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the eldest son of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (the former president), was elected as president following a hereditary succession.
There were 258 candidates running for the 125 assembly seats, and over 2,644 polling boxes were put up around the country. Elections for local government bodies, which would serve for five years, were held concurrently.
Turkmenistan is generally considered to be a secretive state with much information not generally revealed to the outside world. Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the president, had stated earlier that the election would be conducted by following democratic principles.
Turkey expressed satisfaction with the polls on Sunday, saying they were held in a “calm and peaceful setting.
Election process in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan’s political system is a presidential republic, with the President serving as both head of state and head of government.
The Assembly’s 125 members are chosen in single-member constituencies via first-past-the-post voting. A turnout of at least 50% of registered voters is necessary to validate the result in a constituency, and if not achieved, the election must be rerun.
The election prior to the 2023 parliamentary election was the presidential election of 2022. As President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow indicated his intention to step down, the elections were called early. Previously, only a single political party could compete, but the People’s Council’s adoption of a new constitution allowed multiple parties to compete. Despite the fact that several parties are permitted to participate, the existence of the Democratic Party prevents any big shock wave from occurring.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence of the country thereafter, the Democratic Party has ruled ever since. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow chose his eldest son, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, as the running candidate. With 72.97% of the vote, Serdar Berdimuhamedow emerged as the victor. However, the election was widely considered to be neither fair nor free.
Turkmenistan has had elections in the past, although they are generally seen as neither free nor fair. Since its independence in 1991, the nation has been dominated by the same political party, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, and there is little opposition to the ruling party.
Every five years, presidential elections are held, and the outcomes are typically fixed in favour of the current president or his designated successor. Opposition parties are not permitted to contest elections, and independent candidates face substantial challenges.
Turkmenistan has been openly criticised for its active corruption in various instances. Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index placed Turkmenistan in the 169th position, along with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, scoring 19 out of 100.
The opposition media and human rights organisations have been constantly calling out Turkmenistan for its widespread practice of corruption. Evidence proves corruption in core government sectors such as education and law enforcement through bribery and similar practices.
Isgender Handurdiyevich Mulikov, who was Minister of Internal Affairs from 2009 to 2019, confessed on live television to accepting bribes and expropriating houses.
The result of the parliamentary election is expected to be declared 3–4 days after the election, as notified by the chairman of the election commission, Gulmurat Muradov. While addressing the press, the minister said that the counting of votes had started immediately after the polls were closed at 7 p.m. local time (1400 GMT).
He stated that the election commission has been working constantly for the last month to guarantee a smooth election.