Polling has finished at the first presidential election in Turkmenistan after changes were introduced to the constitution in September 2016 to extend the presidential term from five to seven years.
Out of the 5.17 million total population around 3.22 million were eligible to vote at 2587 polling stations established all over the country. According to the information released by Turkmenistan’s Central Election Commission, by 16.00 local time over 94.7% of voters voted in Turkmenistan, claimed the TASS Agency Sunday.
Apart from the incumbent President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, there are eight other candidates listed on the ballot paper. Experts do not doubt a smooth victory for President Berdimuhamedov whose rival candidates are not considered as serious contenders, The Mir TV channel reported Sunday. However, the formal announcement of the final results may take up to a week.
The elections are not expected to bring any notable changes in the political sphere but are claimed to serve as a reminder to the citizens of Turkmenistan of their right to vote, that have been invited to partake in the elections, which allow them to realize the seriousness of the political exercise, noted the Turkmen news portal.
It further reminded that it was for the first time that the elections were contested by three parties - the Democratic, the Agrarian and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
Another six candidates were nominated by initiative groups of citizens. This, the portal emphasized, indicated the choice available in the elections. Commentators on Russian language web sites point out that none of Berdimuhamedov’s opponents are well-known to the wider public.
They include entrepreneurs, heads of factories and mills besides government officials serving at district or provincial governments. Therefore, wrote the Pravda newspaper Tuesday that “a repeat of the election results of 2012 can be safely predicted, when the current president of Turkmenistan has received more than 97 percent of the vote, while seven of his rivals fetched between 0.06 to 1 percent”.
Writing for the Russian Business Courier (RBK), Arkaday Dubnov remarked Friday that the significant drop of prices in the gas market has considerably reduced Turkmenistan’s revenues which primarily remain dependent on gas sales.
On the outcome of the upcoming elections, these issues' affect is unlikely, but as Berdimuhamedov gets elected for a new term he will face that difficult task waiting to be addressed among many accumulated problems. Mentioning some, Dubnov pointed out that for the past three decades the project for building the Turkmenistan - Afghanistan - Pakistan - India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline awaits progress.
The plans for putting it into operation were recently revised for completion by 2020. However, only the Turkmen section of the pipeline has been built along the borders with Afghanistan. For many years there aren’t many companies wishing to take up the construction inside the Afghan territory.
To have an additional outlet, Turkmenistan relying on its own resources embarked on the construction of the "East - West" pipeline from its Galkinish gas field to the east coast of the Caspian Sea, at a cost of $2 billion, noted RBK adding that “it was in anticipation that an extension of this pipeline would be the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline passing through Azerbaijan, Turkey onwards to Europe.
However, these assumptions have not yet come to fruition as Baku is in no hurry to change the status of Ashgabat from a competitor in the gas market to that of a partner”.
Citing the China’s custom authorities, the Pravda newspaper reported Tuesday, that although during the first three quarters of 2016 Beijing increased its gas imports from Turkmenistan by 11%, Ashgabat revenues nevertheless declined by 29% due to a significant fall in prices for hydrocarbons. This happened at a time when Turkmenistan also lost the arrangement to continue the energy supply to Iran, claimed the Pravda newspaper.
By Zaki Shaikh in London