The election campaign review

Election campaigns of the Presidential candidates are underway in Turkmenistan. Less than two weeks remain before the election date.

Meetings with voters

The incumbent president is paying visits across the country to check on construction-in-progress. In Dashoguz the President showed an interest in agriculture. It appears the reason is that no major construction projects are underway in the northern province.

During his visits the President holds meetings with construction and agriculture workers. In official media outlets these are presented as meetings with voters despite the fact that not anybody can attend, and to ask a question is not permitted.

On 30 January, in one such meeting in Akhal velayat, the President even performed one of his songs.

Violations

Sometimes the President gives gifts to the voters attending these meetings. For one of the construction workers who confessed that he had never been to Avaza, the President ordered a travel package to the Caspian Sea to be arranged for the entire family.

Pursuant to Turkmenistan's Law On elections, from the moment of setting dates for elections or a referendum, the candidates, their immediate relatives, their authorized representatives, members of public interest groups are prohibited from bribing voters, namely: pay money to them, present them gifts or other material assets, carry out sale of goods at reduced prices, distribute any goods free of charge, excluding printed campaign materials, as well as render any service pro bono or at reduced rates.

Pursuant to the law, in case of a violation the Central Election Commission must issue a warning to a candidate, and in case of repeated violations withdraw a candidate from elections.

Distribution of air time

Despite the fact that the incumbent head of state refused to make use of the air time provided to him in favour of other candidates, the number of television programs extolling the accomplishments of Turkmenistan and President Berdymukhammedov, who, according to invited guests of TV programs, contributed to considerable accomplishments being implemented, has become more frequent.

The main topic in newscasts is devoted primarily to the President's trips whereas much less time is dedicated to other candidates. For instance, 30 minutes out of a 35 minute newscast were devoted to the trip the President paid to Akhal and his meetings with voters. 3 minutes were allocated for the TV broadcast devoted to meetings with voters held by the other 6 candidates.

Alternative candidates

Other candidates are also making pre-election trips across the country. However, they are not authorized to arrange anything. Each of them presents their election program in front of the identically clad audience by reading it out from notes. Some attendees address a question to the candidates by reading it out from notes. The candidates answer using prompts from their notes, too.

Election programs of candidates are almost identical and envisage a continuation of the existing policy without any changes. Meetings of several candidates are held at the same time.

Observers

A total of 3223 local observers have been registered in Turkmenistan.

The head of the Headquarters of the CIS Observation Mission Evgeniy Sloboda highly appreciates the organizational level of Presidential election campaigning. On 31 January the OSCE Election Observation Mission arrived in Ashgabat.

The state information agency TDH reports that representatives of the Central Election Commission gave assurances that conditions will be created for the observers to ensure monitoring at all stages of election events and that the elections will be held in an atmosphere of glasnost and openness.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan