Statement made by observers of the Commonwealth of Independent States on results of monitoring of the election campaign and election of deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan
On Turkmenistan's invitation, the mission of CIS observers (further referred to as the mission) observed the election campaign and election of deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan held on 14 December 2008.
The invitation of the mission is regarded as a good will gesture on the part of Turkmenistan authorities who are guided by the desire to continue democratization of society, ensure transparency of elections and openness to the international observation of the election process.
The mission of 40 observers from national parliaments, central election commissions, state bodies of the CIS member states and the CIS Executive Committee was given accreditation.
The mission and its headquarters started work on 25 November 2008. The mission observers performed their functions guided by the Constitution and the law of Turkmenistan "On election of deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan", universally recognized norms of international election law, and keeping to the principle of political neutrality and non-interference into the internal affairs of the state.
The mission worked in an open and transparent manner. Its headquarters had regularly informed people of Turkmenistan about their role in Turkmenistan. The mission issued a press release, a statement, an interim report, gave interviews to mass media.
As part of the monitoring of the election campaign, the head of mission, chairman of the CIS Executive Committee and CIS Executive Secretary S.N.Lebedev discussed the pace of preparation for the parliamentary elections during meetings at the Central Election Commission of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, and got acquainted with work of election commissions of the city of Ashgabat as well as Akhal and Dashoguz provinces.
The mission positively assessed steps undertaken by the state bodies, including bodies with executive powers, the Central Election Commission of Turkmenistan (further referred to as Central Commission) to ensure free, fair and democratic elections, and invitation of well-known international organizations to observe the election.
The president of Turkmenistan, G.Berdimuhamedov, proposed amendments to the Constitution of Turkmenistan according to which the new law (further referred to as the Law) "On the election of deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan" was adopted.
Therefore, the election campaign and elections were carried out on the basis of legislation that was significantly changed and supplemented with provisions aimed at improvement of the election system. In particular:
People representation in the Mejlis of Turkmenistan was increased from 65 to 125 deputies. International and national observers had the right to monitor the election at all stages of preparation and conduct of elections;
Citizens living abroad or on a business trip for the first time have had a chance to vote. Polling stations were set up at Turkmenistan's embassies in foreign countries;
People detained in pre-trial detention centers under the procedural criminal law have the right to vote;
The maximum number of voters per polling station decreased from 3000 to 2000 people;
The mission notes that the Law provides for democratic procedures of free expression of will and regulates all stages of the election process. However, the CIS observers believe that with a view to introducing further clarity and improving some provisions the Law should also provide for norms that were introduced to election legislation in a number of countries, namely:
the norm about the opening and closing hour of voting on the day of elections;
the norm about placing a copy of a signed protocol of the election commission to inform the public on results of elections.
The preparation and parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan were carried out by the Central Commission, election commissions in provinces and the city of Ashgabat, district and precinct election commissions.
125 district election commissions and 2118 precinct election commissions were set up in Turkmenistan in accordance with the Law. Citizens of Turkmenistan for the first time have had the opportunity to vote at 27 election commissions abroad.
The mission positively assesses the task-oriented work of the Central Commission to train members of district election commissions, and trainings for chairpersons, deputies and secretaries of district election commissions on the procedures related to the conduct of the election campaign.
Members of precinct election commissions, in turn, conducted large-scale voter education. Every voter had access to information about candidates, their rights and responsibilities through normative documents and methodological documents. There were arranged information billboards for young voters.
Turkmenistan's mass media broadly covered the preparation for the election campaign. TV channels systematically translated information clips about the voting procedure. Newspapers regularly published articles about major phases of the election campaign.
Voter lists were drawn by precinct election commissions with the assistance of representatives of public organizations using data provided by bodies of local authorities and self-governance. Citizens could check authenticity of their names on the lists of voters in the premises of precinct election commissions 10 days before the start of elections.
Precinct election commissions sent out invitations to voters indicating time and place of voting.
Under the Law, the nomination and registration of candidates was carried out.
288 candidates were registered, including 58 female candidates, in the qualifying period.
Two or more candidates were nominated in all 125 election districts, which is evidence of the alternative basis of elections.
The Central Commission and district election commissions created equal conditions for candidates to conduct election campaigns, which is an important element of democratic elections.
Candidates had equal access to mass media. Regional newspapers published the profile of candidates, their biographies and election programmes.
Candidates were given free air time on Altyn Asyr, Miras and Yashlyk TV channels at the most convenient hours for electorate.
The mission notes that Turkmenistan took steps aimed at conducting the free election campaign making it possible for candidates to openly state their election programmes. The election campaign was conducted in line with election legislation and ethic norms, in a proper way, taking into consideration the national mentality and traditions.
The mission was free to visit election districts, observe the activities of the Central Commission, district and precinct election commissions as well as election commissions in provinces and the city of Ashgabat. The mission could easily get all information about the pace of the election campaign and meet the candidates, their trustees, electorate, representatives of bodies of local authorities and self-governance.
The CIS observers got acquainted with activities of precinct election commissions of the city of Ashgabat as well as Akhal, Balkan, Dashoguz, Lebap and Mary provinces.
The mission notes that precinct election commissions worked in accordance with the Law. Election commissions were provided with facilities to arrange voting which were equipped with communication tools and office equipment, necessary reference-methodological literature and normative documents.
While visiting the election commissions, the CIS observers provided consultation services to members of election commissions and made recommendations in a friendly manner to remove some minor technical shortcomings related to document keeping, layout of voting booths and voting boxes with a view to facilitate the voting process. Members of precinct election commissions responded to recommendations with understanding.
Observers, having visited district and precinct election commissions, noted openness and transparency in their work as well as the aspiration of their members to ensure the high level of organization of elections.
On the polling day, the CIS observers visited election commissions in all provinces and the city of Ashgabat and personally monitored the procedure of their opening, voting, vote counting and filling out a vote protocol.
Observers noted that voting was held in a calm atmosphere and in accordance with norms of the Law at all election commissions that they visited. Young voters, who voted for the first time, received memorable gifts.
The CIS observers made their conclusions and assessments on the basis of their own observation, analysis of factual documents and data obtained during monitoring of the election campaign.
In the mission's opinion, the election of deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan was well-organized and marked by the high turnout of voters. Election commissions, bodies of state and executive authorities and self-governance ensured the free expression of citizens' will. Turkmenistan created necessary conditions for the open and democratic conduct of parliamentary elections, in accordance with the national legislation.
The mission of CIS observers:
Finds the election of deputies of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan, held on 14 December 2008, to be in accordance with current election legislation and universally recognized norms of conduct of democratic elections;
Regards the parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan as free and open;
Notes that elections were an important factor in further democratizing public life in Turkmenistan, and strengthening the foundation of state sovereignty and democracy, and were evidence of the steady social and economic development of Turkmenistan.
By the mission of observers of the Commonwealth of Independent States
This conclusion is made following the monitoring by the mission of the election of deputies of the Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan.
Election commissions started their activities after a decision was made by the Central Election Commission of Turkmenistan.
The mission observers note that elections commissions, including the Central Election Commission, worked in a transparent manner. Observers were provided, upon request, with documentation, including voter lists.
On the polling day, 14 December 2008, all election commissions opened and closed in time. Voting was well-organized and in accordance with the law.
The mission notes that, on the whole, election commissions were prepared for the election. Their work was transparent, and observers had the opportunity to receive information about voting and its results.
International and national observers were free to work in Turkmenistan, including the polling day. Observers were stationed in polling stations in accordance with election legislation.
The election bodies provided necessary assistance to the mission within the framework of current legislation.
In their assessment, the mission was guided by the following criteria: the Constitution of Turkmenistan, current election legislation, as well as international legal acts to which Turkmenistan acceded. International standards of election were used as reference, and were applied when not conflict with the above documents of Turkmenistan and CIS countries.
During the observation, the mission did not detect violations of legislation, the right of people to vote that could prejudice the outcome of elections. On the polling day and in the process of summing up interim results, the mission did not notice violations that could prejudice the legitimacy of elections.
The election and its results reflect the true correlation of political forces in the country.
On behalf of the mission:
Chairman of the Central Election Commission
of the Republic of Tajikistan
Ashgabat, 14-15 December 2008