Presidential gifts during election campaign � vote buying

On Sunday, 12 February the residents of Turkmenistan will be electing their President for the next seven years. Chronicles of Turkmenistan has already reported on the election campaign. We highlighted that, during his trips and meetings with voters, the President presents gifts to them despite the fact that it is forbidden pursuant to Turkmenistan's Election Code.

It should also be mentioned that in the past two months (during the election campaign) gifts on behalf of the President were repeatedly given to construction workers after commissioning some objects even though the head of the state was not present.

For one voter the President ordered a travel package to Avaza to be arranged.

Radio Azatlyk contacted Turkmenistan's Central Election Commission with this question.

The radio reports that a representative of the Central Election Commission, who introduced herself as assistant to an executive (the name is withheld for security purposes), in a conversation with Radio Azatlyk asked to refrain from combining the election campaign of the Presidential candidate Berdymukhammedov with his activities as the head of the state, in the framework of which his recent working visits to the country's provinces were held. The representative of the Central Election Commission denied that the actions undertaken by the President were not in line with Turkmenistan's law by highlighting that the President has the right to present workers with gifts as encouragement for their work.

Chronicles of Turkmenistan approached Turkmenistan's Independent Lawyers Association for explanations.

The head of the organization, Timur Misrikhanov, replied that this is an obvious violation of the election code which clearly states that from the moment of setting dates for elections it is prohibited to bribe voters, including distributing any goods free of charge, or rendering any service pro bono or at reduced rates. In other words, since mid October when the Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan set the date for elections, the President had no right to give gifts to voters. This applies to the gifts which were presented not personally by the President but on his behalf and to the instruction to arrange the free travel package for the builder and his family.

Taking into account that this clause of the code was repeatedly violated, the election commission can and should cancel the registration on legitimate grounds and withdraw the candidate from elections.

As regards the statement by the Central Election Commission that the election campaign and work-related activities should be separated. This should be guided by the election code, which does not envisage and separate work-related activities and the election campaign. Everything that the candidate does after registration is subject to the election code. For instance, if a candidate who is employed as a school teacher gives students candies, this will be treated as vote bribery rather than his work-related activities.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan