Representatives of civil associations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Turkmenistan.
Early presidential elections were held in Turkmenistan on March 12, 2022.
ACTIONS OF THE AUTHORITIES
The President of Turkmenistan is elected by universal suffrage. Presidential candidates can be citizens of the country who have reached the age of 40, were born in Turkmenistan, and have been living on the territory of Turkmenistan (living in it) for the last 15 years. According to the current Constitution of Turkmenistan, the term of office of the President of Turkmenistan is seven years, the President can be re-elected without restrictions and the number of such terms is not limited by law.
President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov suddenly announced the holding of early elections on February 11, 2022, at an extraordinary meeting of the People’s Assembly. The next day, on February 12, the Mejlis of Turkmenistan officially scheduled the election of the President of Turkmenistan for March 12, 2022.
Since 1992, the Constitution of Turkmenistan has been changed 9 times. With each change in the Constitution, amendments and new articles were introduced, according to which the opposition was completely deprived of the right to participate in presidential elections.
The opposition of Turkmenistan is forced to stay outside the country. It is impossible to register a political party or a public organization without the permission of the President himself. Therefore, the opposition movement has long been restricted in its rights, and the legislation of Turkmenistan does not provide an opportunity to nominate its presidential candidates to the opposition. Repressive laws and total persecution of dissent, poverty-stricken lifestyle, complete information isolation, censorship, and restriction of the Internet forced millions of Turkmen citizens to leave their country and work as migrant workers abroad. The people of Turkmenistan have completely lost hope for fair and open elections, and therefore do not participate in official elections.
Voters whose votes and turnout were traditionally falsified in favor of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s successor, his son Serdar Berdimuhamedov, were also restricted in their rights.
According to the reports of the CEC of Turkmenistan, the turnout was 97.12%, and 90.93% of voters voted at polling stations abroad.
Along with 40-year-old Serdar Berdimuhamedov, there were eight other candidates on the ballot. All of them were appointed by Berdimuhamedov as candidates for the post of no President of Turkmenistan. These are the so-called “clone candidates”, known for their loyalty to the head of state. According to the results of the voting, Serdar Berdimuhamedov scored 72, 97% of the votes
The CEC of Turkmenistan stated that 3,362,052 people voted within the country, which accounted for 97.28% of the turnout. 21,678 out of 23,840 registered voters voted outside the country.
At the same time, according to independent media estimates, there is an unprecedented population decline in Turkmenistan. According to Radio Azattyk, as of the beginning of 2021, 2.7 to 2.8 million people live in the country. The official Ashgabat reports about 6.2 million people. The last time the population census was done was 10 years ago.
The Turkmen authorities also hide the number of Turkmen citizens who have left the country. According to estimates of the radio station “Azatlyk”, in the period from 2008 to 2018, more than 1.9 million people were forced to leave Turkmenistan, who left Turkmenistan as labor migrants. The total number of labor migrants outside Turkmenistan is just over 3.3 million people.
On November 15, 2021, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated that Turkmenistan was on the list of countries of particular concern.
In the annual country report of the US State Department, a significant list of human rights violations in Turkmenistan is noted, including: “the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections.
On March 8, the ODIHR recommended not sending an observer mission to Turkmenistan to assess the early presidential elections. In the evaluation report, the decision was explained by the fact that Turkmenistan ignored the recommendations of the organization to ensure pluralism in the election process and respect for basic human rights.
The State Department also stated the elections in Turkmenistan: “We agree with the concerns outlined in the recent needs assessment conducted by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Organisation for Security and
Co-operation in Europe. We call on the Government of Turkmenistan to implement the recommendations of the ODIHR to bring its electoral system in line with the standards described in the needs assessment.
Since 1991, no elections in Turkmenistan have been recognized by international experts or human rights organizations. The elections of 2022 differed in the scale of fraud, only in comicality. So, for example, ballot stuffing was broadcast on the state TV channel, so it became an everyday activity.
ACTIONS OF THE OPPOSITION
Representatives of the opposition of Turkmenistan abroad, through a zoom conference, held a meeting of the united democratic forces and decided to participate in the elections based on an alternative online platform.
Thus, on 02/14/2022, the United Democratic Forces of Turkmenistan elected the leader and founder of the people’s movement “Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan” Murad Kurbanov as their candidate for the post of President of Turkmenistan.
Kurbanov 1965/r. Graduate of TPI (Turkmen Polytechnic Institute), a civil engineer. In 1999 he graduated from the Dutch Business School with an MBA in corporate management/marketing, in 2012 he graduated from Mirai University in Toulouse (France), and received a diploma from a French language teacher. Engaged in sports, is the owner of 6 dan Aikido, is also a specialist in the techniques of the Federation “Eurasia Aikido” and the French Federation of Aikido and Budo (FFAB). He speaks Turkmen, Russian, and French. Murad Kurbanov is married and has 4 children.
The Turkmen opposition has taken impressive steps to achieve its goal. They turned to specialists from third countries and created an alternative online platform for holding presidential elections in Turkmenistan.
The list of candidates included all official presidential candidates, as well as candidates from opposition representatives abroad. A total of 13 candidates participated in the first round of electronic voting. On the part of the democratic opposition, educational propaganda work and meetings with presidential candidates were organized on all social networks and YouTube channels. Despite the tight deadlines and limited human, financial, and media resources, the opposition managed to attract 418,499 voters to electronic alternative elections – this is more than 33% of the electorate living abroad and having the right to vote.
It is noteworthy that the opposition of Turkmenistan held its alternative elections in two rounds – on March 12 and April 2.
In the first round, Murad Kurbanov scored 208,425 votes or 49.8% voted for him. Murad Kurbanov confidently beat Serdar Berdimuhamedov. 69,973 voters voted for Serdar Berdimuhamedov, which is 16.72% of the total voters who voted. A total of 418,499 voters voted in the first round.
Since none of the candidates won more than 50% of the votes on 12.03.2022, following Article 79 of the Constitution of Turkmenistan, a second round was required. Thus, the second round took place on 02.04.2022. In the second round, Murad Kurbanov won 116,709 votes, which amounted to 74.82% of the total number of voters. 39,275 voters voted for Serdar Berdimuhamedov, which was 25.18%. A total of 155,984 voters voted in the second round.
HOW THE VOTING PLATFORM WORKS
The principle of operation of the voting platform is as follows:
All voters had the opportunity to vote at two sites. The first platform is a website specialized for voting
and the second platform is a specialized telegram channel bot
The difference between one and the other is that the website can be easily blocked (which was done on the territory of Turkmenistan), and it is difficult to block the specialized telegram channel bot for voting. The principle of voting is as follows: each voter can vote only once from his IP address, that is, 1 vote from 1 IP address. IT specialists used the setting of exclusion of the voted IP address, after the expiration of the voting time. For telegram – 1 voice from one number. Thus, the risks
of cheating votes and repeated voting from the same address was eliminated. The interaction between the telegram bot and the website was organized. If you voted in telegram, then you will not be able to vote again on the website and vice versa, too.
There were both attempts to cheat votes from opponents and attempts to hack the site. There was round-the-clock IT support and, accordingly, all hacking and cheating were stopped. As a result, the only way out of the current situation, where every citizen is ready to vote in free electronic elections, is for the special services of Turkmenistan to block the site. Thus, the developers made sure that during the voting they managed to achieve the preservation and protection of voter data. At the same time, each vote was verified, which made it possible to avoid falsifications. In addition, a striking feature of online voting was the opportunity to observe the voting results using a specialized telegram channel, where every hour the developers’ robot automatically posted the voting results.
Differences between the 1st round from the 2nd round of the choice of the President of Turkmenistan.
At the beginning of the second round, the election commission and the election organizers tried to strengthen the verification of each voter. So, a special office was created on the website for each voter, where the voter, in addition to all his data, also exposes his copy of the passport and takes his photo with the passport in the form of a selfie. All this data had to be checked manually.
As a rule, when citizens of Turkmenistan speak on YouTube or social networks, then their family members inside the country are immediately put under pressure from the special services. In this regard, the election commission and the organizers of electronic voting faced the problem of voters’ fears of posting their data. The organizers and developers responded to the requests of voters to cancel the requirements related to the verification of votes. The voting format of the first round was returned.
The electronic voting platform technically allows you to reach the votes of voters throughout the country and abroad. However, the total restriction of the Internet in Turkmenistan does not allow to convey of information about the platform in a short time. In addition, the developers faced
another problem – is IP addressed by the opposition of the authorities. The authorities of Turkmenistan deliberately reduced the speed of the Internet inside the country, blocked the voting site, attempted hacking of the site, and DDOS attacks.
No doubt holding alternative presidential elections in Turkmenistan has a great positive effect on the opposition and civil society in the country as a whole.
- Turkmenistan is the most closed and authoritarian country in Central Asia and the CIS region. Public opposition traditionally has minimal support. During the alternative elections, Murad Kurbanov’s team managed to achieve maximum voter support, in the 30-year history of the country’s opposition, the democratic forces were able to get real supporters from among the voters. In Central Asia, no opposition politician has such results. The active participation of citizens of Turkmenistan in electronic voting began to inspire hope for possible changes and showed that citizens of Turkmenistan are ready for changes.
- Civil society has tested the instrument of unification, through a single platform for the realization of its electoral right. The encouraging factor was the understanding that there are opposing forces in the country and there are many of them – 208,425 votes.
- The opportunity to cast your vote in an important decision in the life of the country opens up new opportunities for opposition forces and citizens can be mobilized to discuss and make decisions in the adoption of a new Constitution, parliamentary elections, Referendums, and other electoral processes. companies.
- Such work with civil society contributes to the widespread dissemination and understanding that people have rights. That it is possible to decide the fate of your country in the legal field, through elections and voting. This instrument of democracy in the entire post-Soviet space has been significantly discredited, and therefore we see the low turnout at polling stations, often forced voting, when elections are held by the authorities.
- The acquired experience of the Turkmen democratic forces may be very important for other democratic forces of the CIS regions. This experience can be developed in the region. This experience can provide solutions to many problems of civil society related to the defense of human rights, the development of civil space, and the development of the activities of political and human rights organizations.
Of course, the organizer did not have enough media resources to involve the wider masses in this and get more supporters.
Because of this, the elections themselves and the election of Murad Kurbanov to the post of President of Turkmenistan were not widely publicized in the media. The voting platform has no technical expertise, although, by all signs and results, it can receive support and serve as an official alternative basis in the electoral processes of any country.
We, representatives of civil associations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Turkmenistan, welcome the efforts of the democratic forces of Turkmenistan made to realize their rights and the will of voters during the announced, early presidential elections.
We believe that the experience and results of the voting should be widely covered in the media outside of Turkmenistan, and all over the world. We hope that this experience will be continued and developed in Turkmenistan and beyond.
We welcome and congratulate Murad Kurbanov as the first opposition leader of the united democratic forces
Turkmenistan with the election to the post of president of the country, by alternative voting on an online platform.
We are aware that the results of the vote were influenced by third forces, and that the votes that were cast for Serdar Berdimuhamedov could have been collected by order of the special services forcibly.
We consider Murad Kurbanov’s victory as an important example of the struggle of voters in the legal field, in the conditions of a closed, totalitarian political system and the use of total falsification during elections that are not open to the public.
We call on the leaders of free and democratic countries, the UN, OSCE, the European Parliament, PACE, the US Congress, and international human rights organizations around the world to support this format of elections. To announce the election of Murad Kurbanov to the post of the president through alternative elections, thus supporting the will of the voters of Turkmenistan, who, in the conditions of the heaviest repression, voted for the people’s candidate.