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Friday, 10 February 2012

Turkmenistan’s one horse race | beyondbrics – FT.com

Don’t expect any surprises at Turkmenistan’s presidential election this weekend. Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who has ruled the gas-rich country since 2007, will almost certainly win a landslide victory at the poll that is shaping up to be a charade even by central Asian standards.

Seven candidates are standing against Berdymukhammedov, but all are members of the slavishly loyal Turkmen elite. Campaigning for the country’s top job, they have not breathed a word of criticism about the incumbent president. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has decided not to deploy an observer mission. After a recent mission to Turkmenistan, the 57-country human rights watch dog said it could not add value to the poll, citing a lack of freedom and competition.

In his manifesto Berdymukhammedov pledged to promote democratic reforms and diversify Turkmenistan’s economy away from oil and gas. Turkmenistan, ranked as one of the most repressive countries in the world and among the riskiest places to do business, has a long way to go to achieve the president’s goals.