ASHGABAD, December 15, 5:20 /ITAR-TASS/. Parliamentary elections will take place in Turkmenistan this Sunday. Approximately three million Turkmen citizens who are eligible to vote are to elect 125 deputies to the Turkmen parliament (Mejilis) out of 283 registered candidates. “The elections, the most important social and political event in the life of the country, will become another effective step on the way towards further democratization of Turkmen society and the strengthening of the genuine principles of people’s power,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said on Saturday.
What makes these elections special is that representatives of two political parties will run for parliament for the first time in the history of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan has had a one-party system ever since it proclaimed its independence in 1991. The president has been heading the Democratic Party over all these years. A Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, which is not an opposition force, was created in 2012. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov stepped down as the party leader at the Democratic Party’s Congress in August 2013 and gave up his party membership in order not to give advantages to his party in conditions of multi-party elections.
According to the latest information, the Democratic Party has about 190,000 members. The lists of candidates nominated for the elections reflect the party’s numerical advantage over other political and public forces in the country. There are 99 representatives of the Democratic Party in those lists. The trade unions come second with 89 people. The Women’s Union has registered 37 candidates, the Makhtumukli Youth Organisation has 22 candidate and various citizens groups have nominated 15 people.
Under the Turkmen constitution, parliament (Mejilis) is considered to be the supreme legislative body of power. Parliament is vested with the following powers: it adopts and amends laws as well as the Constitution; sets the date for presidential and parliamentary elections; considers, on proposal from the president, questions linked to the appointment or dismissal of the chairman of the Supreme Court, the chief prosecutor, the interior minister and the justice minister; it considers questions related to changing the state border and the administrative territorial division of the country; parliament approves an action program submitted by the cabinet of ministers; adopt the state budget and controls its execution; it considers the guidelines and programs of political, economic and social development of Turkmenistan and decides whether national referendums are to be held.
Parliament (Mejilis) consists of 125 deputies elected by universal, direct, equal and secret ballot on the alternative basis for a term of five years. Turkmenistan has a majority election system. Candidates are nominated by political parties, public associations and citizens’ assemblies. Any Turkmen national who has reached the age of 25 and who has been residing in Turkmenistan for the past 10 years can be nominated as an election candidate.
A candidate who gains more than half of the votes cast by people who take part in the elections is considered to be the winner. Turkmen laws do not mention any obligatory voter turnout thresholds.
Almost 2,500 polling stations will open in Turkmenistan at 07:00 local time (06:00 Moscow time) on Sunday. Thirty-three polling stations will open at Turkmen diplomatic missions in 26 countries. In Russia, they will work in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Astrakhan.
All campaigning is forbidden on the day of the vote, which will last until 19:00 local time (18:00 Moscow time).
A CIS observer mission will monitor the parliamentary elections. It will consist of 67 representatives of countries members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the CIS Executive Committee. A Russia delegation is led by Kazbek Taisayev, the vice-chairman of the State Duma Committee for Economic Policy, Innovation Development and Entrepreneurship.
The OSCE Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has sent 15 monitors to Ashgabad for the first time. A large group of national observers - more than 2,500 people - will take part in the monitoring as usual. A report on the election outcome is to be published in the press not later than ten days after the vote.