Turkmenistan held a multi-party parliamentary election on December 15. But electoral competition didn’t mean voters had a genuine choice.
In all, there were 283 candidates – selected from the ranks of two officially-recognized parties, as well as trade unions and citizens', youth and women's groups. They vied for 125 seats in the rubber-stamp legislature. All the candidates were carefully vetted to ensure the new parliament will be unwavering in its loyalty to Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Turkmenistan’s autocratic leader.
Watchdog groups rate Berdymukhamedov’s Turkmenistan as one of the most repressive and corrupt countries on earth. Berdymukhamedov’s introduction of a multi-party element to what has always been a carefully stage-managed electoral system was widely seen as a cynical attempt to improve the Central Asian nation’s image.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.