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Turkmenistan’s Presidential Election 2017: The Most Important Political Event

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

The Presidential Election 2017 is the most important political event in Turkmenistan. The Central Commission for Election and Referenda of Turkmenistan has adopted a resolution according to which EARLY VOTING at the country’s presidential election started from Feb. 2, 2017. Early voting for the Turkmen presidential election has started on February 2 for citizens staying abroad. It will last until February 11. 2,578 polling stations will be opened, including 39 polling stations at diplomatic missions of Turkmenistan abroad.

Electoral Code of Turkmenistan’s article 73 permits that those, who are unable to be at their place of residence on the Election Day, have the right for early voting at a polling station. It is based on true spirits of democracy in which every vote is counted and documented. The early voting will be carried out daily from 08:00 to 18:00.

Registration of presidential candidates concluded on January 17, 2017. The Central Commission for Election and Referenda of Turkmenistan has registered nine presidential candidates for Presidential Election 2017 to be held on February 2017. The Democratic Party nominated the incumbent head of state Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan nominated chairman of the Commercial Bank Rysgal, Bekmyrat Atalyev, and the Agrarian Party nominated chairman of the Mary province committee Durdygylych Orazov.

Initiative groups of Turkmen citizens nominated Deputy Chairman of Turkmen state association of food industry Maksat Annanepesov, Deputy Head of the Mary province of Turkmenistan Jumanazar Annayev; Director of Seydi oil refinery, MP Ramazan Durdyyev; Deputy Head of Dashoguz district Meretdurdy Gurbanov; Head of the Economic Department of Akhal province Serdar Jelilov; Director General of ‘Garabogazsulfat’ association Suleymannepes Nurnepesov for the upcoming Presidential Election 2017.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has been elected twice as the country’s president. During the presidential election in 2012, 97.4 percent of voters cast their ballots for Berdimuhamedov. According to new amendments to the country’s Constitution Turkmen president is now elected for a period of seven years.

According to its “constitution” a candidate for the presidency the candidate should be a citizen, born in Turkmenistan, aged above 40 years, speak the state language, and live and work permanently in the country over the last 15 years. It has unicameral (one legislative or parliamentary chamber), national assembly. Voter age is 18.

Early voting also called pre-poll voting or advance polling is a process by which voters in a public election can vote prior to the scheduled election day. Early voting can take place remotely, such as via postal voting, or in person, usually in designated early voting polling stations. The availability and time periods for early voting vary among jurisdictions and types of election. The goals of early voting are usually to increase voter participation and relieve congestion at polling stations on Election Day.

The categories of people who vote early include those who will be out of the polling area during the election period, poll workers, campaign workers, people with medical procedures scheduled for that time, and adherents to religious commitments, among others. It is a common democratic practice in most of the European Union Countries.

According to the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of Turkmenistan, all stages of the election campaign have been organized in a timely manner, in accordance with the international standards and law of fair, free and transparency. All 2548 polling stations of the country are ready for operation. At diplomatic missions of Turkmenistan abroad 39 polling stations are open to voters. 3223 international observers are monitoring the electioneering of the Presidential Election 2017. Representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, CIS, OIC and other national. Regional and international organizations are afforded an opportunity to visit the polling stations of the capital and provinces, both before and during the elections.

Elections of the President of Turkmenistan dominate news headlines in Turkmenistan, region and beyond. Biographies and policy statements of each of the candidates have been published in mainstream as well as regional media. Now all candidates are busy to meet voters and voters can be acquainted with their election programs during meetings or at polling stations. Candidates for the highest state post are provided the equal broadcasting time by the national television channels.

Turkmenistan is a democratic country and the presidential election in Turkmenistan will be well-organized, competitive and open. The voter turnout will be high. Presidential Election 2017 would be a significant step in the path of the ongoing broad democratic reforms in the country. It would further strengthen the electoral legislation of Turkmenistan which has already undergone a positive change towards greater flexibility and openness.

Ethical standards, civil and free atmosphere will be maintained in the presidential campaign in Turkmenistan. The people of Turkmenistan will vote for greater stability and the socio-economic development. They will vote aiming at systematical improvement of the social status of common people and further growth of the national economy.

Campaigning will be stopped one day before the actual day of election 2017. The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda (CEC) of Turkmenistan declared February 11 the day of silence. The CEC being an independent entity will assure that all provisions of the electoral law will be met, and all organizational and preparatory work will be completed on schedule. It has confirmed their complete readiness for the social and political action.

Political activities are going one throughout the country. The day of election is painted in sharp festive colors in the towns and villages of Turkmenistan. Elders and young people voting for the first time will receive gifts in memory of the elections. National musical groups will sing songs in the concert venues near the polling stations, leaving voters in high spirits and tuning them into the patriotic mood.

Voting in the Presidential Election 2017 will be an opportunity not only to fulfill a civic duty, but also to meet other fellow countrymen. Refreshments will be offered in a separate room for guests; national melodies will be played; and films about Turkmenistan will be demonstrated. There will be no hustle and bustle at the polling station. Voting is a national duty and every voter will fulfill its duty.

It is hoped that the Presidential Election 2017 will be held on a competitive basis, in the atmosphere of openness, transparency and high civil activity of voters, marking a significant step towards the development of a democratic, secular, legal Turkmen state.

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