Staunton, Mar. 15 – The results of Turkmenistan’s presidential election announced today are “unprecedented” in the history of that closed and tightly controlled country, Stanislav Pritchin says, not because the regime’s favored candidate, the son of the current president, did not win but because he won with such a remarkably small share of the votes.
The IMEMO specialist on Central Asia notes that the winner this time around received only 72.97 percent of the vote with some 97.1 percent of voters reportedly taking part. In earlier elections, Serdar Berdymuhamedov’s father, Gurbanguly, received 89 percent, 97 percent, and 94 percent (t.me/caspiankhodja and casp-geo.ru/serdar-berdymuhamedov-izbran-novym-prezidentom-turkmenistana/).
There are two possible explanations for this, Pritchin says. On the one hand, Serdar hasn’t shown himself that well in earlier positions and is not that popular in the population, although under the conditions which exist in the Turkmenistan political system, those do not in themselves present problems for his ratification by the voters.
And on the other, his father, who initiated this election but in fact remains very much in power clearly didn’t want his son to overshadow him in the voting. Gurbanguly undoubtedly decided that he wanted his son to win but not by anything like he himself won in his own past races. Other Russian observers agree with this assessment.
But it is possible that Gurbanguly has been too clever by half. Not only do the official results show that Serdar is less popular than his father, but they indicate that opposition figures are not as marginal as before; and there are now reports of massive falsification about participation which was far lower than reported (hronikatm.com/2022/03/real-lebap-turnout/).
Those are the kind of developments which have sparked color revolutions elsewhere; and while they are unlikely to play that role in Turkmenistan, they are enough that specialists are now saying that no one should be speaking about the completion of leadership transition there (ia-centr.ru/experts/daniil-polyakov/turkmenistan-pri-berdymukhamedove-mladshem-tranzit-vlasti-mozhno-nazvat-sostoyavshimsya/).
This vote is only the beginning, and more struggles both behind the scenes and possibly even in public are likely in the coming days and months.