True to form, Turkmenistan reports a huge turnout at parliamentary elections on December 15. Although the vote was the first in the country's history featuring more than one party, no real choice was given to voters.
The Central Election Commission reports a turnout of over 91% in the country's first multi-party parliamentary election. Ashgabat has presented the vote as a move towards greater political openness, with the ruling Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (DPT) for the first time facing competition from a second party.
However, both parties support authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, The Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan (PPT) was launched in August 2012 after Turkmenistan adopted legislation allowing new political parties to be created.
A total of 283 candidates registered to run for the 125 parliament seats, including 99 from DPT and 21 from PPT. Other candidates represented trade unions, the Turkmen Women's Union and the National Youth Organization of Turkmenistan. Preliminary results are expected late on December 16.
However, with both the DPT and the PPT loyal to Berdymukhamedov, the election of PPT members to the parliament - which largely exists to rubber stamp presidential decisions - will have no impact on the political environment. In the climate of extreme political repression in Turkmenistan, any genuine opposition movements operate from outside the country.
"[T]he elections will be deprived of meaningful choice as both political parties are staunchly loyal to the president, other candidates have been nominated by government-controlled public associations and none of the 283 registered candidates run on an independent line," said a statement from the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR), published in the run-up to the election on December 9.
Meanwhile, a December 12 report from Amnesty International describes recent political changes as "no more than token gestures designed to distract the international community."
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