[The Europeans side thought–Why bother?]
Observers from the former Soviet Union will monitor a presidential election in Turkmenistan next month but Europe’s main monitoring body has said political freedom in the country is so limited that there is no point in sending a team.
By James Kilner, Central Asia Correspondent
The five Central Asian states have acquired a dubious democratic record since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 but Turkmenistan still stands out. The vote on Feb 12 is only the second formerly contested Turkmen presidential election since independence.
Turkmenistan, which lies next to the Caspian Sea and is dominated by the vast, sandy Karakum desert, is rich in gas which has attracted the attention of its neighbours over the last few years. But it is also one of the most secretive and closed countries in the world.
News websites linked to the Turkmen authorities have now said that observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the alliance of former Soviet nations, will send monitors to the election.
The Europeans, though, have declined to send a monitoring team.
After visiting Turkmenistan in December, Europe’s election monitoring team, dubbed the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and run by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said political freedom in the country was so limited that sending a monitoring team would be meaningless.
“The OSCE/ODIHR NAM [Needs Assessment Mission] does not consider that the deployment of an election observation mission, even of a limited nature, would add value at this point in time,” it said in a report on Jan 3.
The US-based lobby group Freedom House rates Turkmenistan as one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world.
Election observers from the former Soviet Union, though, have monitored a presidential election in Turkmenistan previously. They gave a positive account of the 2007 presidential election, which President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov won with 89 per cent of the vote.
Eight candidates have registered for the election on Feb 12, although there is no genuine opposition and Mr Berdymukhamedov is the only one with any real name recognition. He is expected to win the vote easily.