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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ASHGABAT1298
2007-11-28 14:35:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

TURKMENISTAN: ELECTION OFFICIALS CONFIDENT IN

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  KDEM  TX 
pdf how-to read a cable
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 001298 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: ELECTION OFFICIALS CONFIDENT IN
THEIR PROCESS, BUT PROCESS STILL ARCANE

REF: ASHGABAT 1274



1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.



2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Poloffs met November 27 with Myrat
Garryev, longtime chairman of the National Central Election
Commission, and Shirin Akhmedova, the Director of the
Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, to assess the
status of preparations for the December 9 provincial People's
Council elections, and identify areas where the election
process is changing. Akhmedova indicated that the Institute
wants to ensure that more Central Election Commission members
at all governmental levels receive more training in advance
of the more significant Mejlis elections scheduled for
December 2008 in order to bring Turkmen election officials
closer to international election standards. She admitted
that Turkmenistan's election law is in need of reform, but
added that the current law should be evaluated in action
before making changes. The Institute, however, intends to
work with experts from ABA/CEELI, USAID, ICNL and others to
assess areas of reform and develop a plan to do so. Although
both officials offered strong statements indicating that
democracy is thriving in Turkmenistan, the conduct of
elections -- especially this early in President
Berdimuhamedov's term -- is not likely to be different from
those conducted under Niyazov. END SUMMARY.



3. (SBU) Poloffs met with Central Election Commission
Chairman Myrat Garryev on November 27 at the Central Election
Commission's headquarters. Garryev, a boisterous,
white-haired Brezhnev look-alike, had also invited most of
the rest of the commission to witness the discussion with US
diplomats. It was difficult to believe that this flirtatious
old man had once been one of Niyazov's most important
sycophants, and is credited with being one of two men (the
other being Turkmenistan Democratic Party Chair Musayev) who
had proposed that President Niyazov be declared "President
for Life." Garryev stated, without a smile on his face, that
the provincial elections on December 9 would be an example of
"democracy on the highest level," since democracy had been
developed by the Turkmen people 5,000 years ago when they
elected Oguz Khan their tribal leader.



4. (SBU) After a review of the applicable electoral
legislation (reftel), Garryev answered questions about what
has -- and has not -- changed about the balloting process.
He noted that there is a big focus on assuring that every
single registered voter in each precinct has voted. New
voters who have turned 18 are given gifts and flowers upon
arrival to a polling site (a practice not uncommon in other
parts of the FSU). The oldest voters are driven to the
polls, and mobile ballot boxes are brought to invalids who

are incapable of going to the polling site. The day is
treated like a holiday, and nearly every polling site will
still have music, dancing girls, and possibly even food to
make the day festive. Garryev declared with confidence that,
with these incentives, more than 60 percent of registered
voters will have voted by 2 o'clock in the afternoon.



5. (SBU) Ballots will have the names of two to four
candidates listed, and voters will be required to cross out
all but one name -- their chosen candidate. If a ballot is
received that has had all names crossed out, it is still a
legitimately cast ballot (but it is unclear if these are
counted). Garryev claimed to have never seen a ballot that
showed the voter did not want to choose any of the possible
candidates. Domestic election observers, recently trained on
international monitoring standards by the OSCE Center in
Ashgabat, will be participating in the actual vote counting
at the precinct level. (NOTE: Of the 100 Turkmen citizens the
OSCE trained for election monitoring, 10 were from the
Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, and the remaining
190 were from associations, trade unions, the Democratic
Party, and other government-affiliated entities around the

ASHGABAT 00001298 002 OF 002


country. END NOTE.)



6. (SBU) When asked about the July 2007 amendments that
reversed an earlier effort to expand the powers of provincial
government (reftel), Garryev was frank. He said, "Life moves
on. Niyazov passed away. It doesn't mean we have to stay
with him. Turkmenistan is undergoing a renaissance. We no
longer fulfill the wish of one person. It was the Mejlis's
wish to change the law, and its members represent the
people."



7. (SBU) Shirin Akhmedova of the Institute for Democracy
and Human Rights focused her comments on the variety of
training and cooperation in which the Institute has already
participated. (NOTE: The Institute is a primary source for
participants in OSCE and UNDP training on election-related
issues. END NOTE.) She indicated that the Institute wants
to ensure that more Central Election Commission members at
all governmental levels receive more training in advance of
the more significant Mejlis elections scheduled for December
2008 in order to bring Turkmen election officials closer to
international election standards. She admitted that
Turkmenistan's election law is in need of reform, but added
that the current law should be evaluated in action before
making changes. The Institute, however, intends to work with
experts from ABA/CEELI, USAID, ICNL and others to assess
areas of reform and develop a plan to do so.



8. (SBU) COMMENT: Government officials are citing their
close cooperation with international organizations and
embassies to promote positive change in the system, but
little change is going to be apparent on December 9. The
road to electoral reform will likely be long and bumpy. END
COMMENT.























CURRAN