Acting at the invitation of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of Turkmenistan (hereinafter referred to as the Central Election Commission) and the Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan, the Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (hereinafter referred to as the Mission) monitored preparations for and the election of the President of Turkmenistan on 8-12 February 2017.
The Mission regards the invitation of international observers as the desire of Turkmenistan's authorities to hold an open, transparent and democratic presidential election.
1. Mission staff
The Mission included representatives from the legislative, executive and electoral bodies of the SCO member states and the leaders and officials of the SCO's permanent bodies — the SCO Secretariat and the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
From the Republic of Kazakhstan: Darkhan Kaletayev, member of the Senate (Upper House of Parliament);
From the People's Republic of China: Wang Xuechun, First Secretary of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of European and Central Asian Affairs;
From the Republic of Kyrgyzstan: Baktybek Raiymkulov, deputy of the Jogorku Kenesh (Parliament); Adilet Satygulov, member of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda;
From the Russian Federation: Mukharbek Didigov, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Defence and Security at the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly (Parliament); Irek Zinnurov, Deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly (Parliament); Sergei Sirotkin, member of the Central Election Commission; Igor Yevlanov, Deputy Department Head — Section Head at the Department of Foreign Relations of the Executive Office of the Central Election Commission;
From the Republic of Tajikistan: Abdulfaiz Atoyev, Counsellor at the Embassy of Tajikistan in Turkmenistan;
From the Republic of Uzbekistan: Ilhom Abdullayev, Chairman of the Legislative Chamber Committee of Oliy Majlis (Parliament);
From the SCO Secretariat: Meder Aseiyinov, senior expert; Ulzhan Galinova, a desk officer; Dmitry Bulgakov, a staffer;
From the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS): Yevgeny Sysoyev, Director of the RATS Executive Committee; Maxim Korepanov, an aide to the Director of the RATS Executive Committee.
The Mission was led by SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov.
2. Mission objectives
The Mission worked under the SCO Regulations on the SCO Observer Mission at Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referendums and the principles of political neutrality and non-interference in the internal affairs and election process of the country in question, as well as in strict compliance with the laws of Turkmenistan.
The necessary conditions were created for monitoring the preparations for and the election of the president of Turkmenistan by the Mission, which is evidence of the openness and transparency of the election process.
The Mission held a number of meetings and talks with the leadership of the Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan, the Central Election Commission, the heads and members of district election commissions, national observers, representatives of political parties, public initiative groups and the media, as well as the heads and members of the observer missions of foreign countries and international organisations.
The Mission members were updated on the efforts taken by the Central Election Commission to prepare for and hold the presidential election, including at Turkmenistan's diplomatic offices abroad.
The Mission's conclusions are based on an analysis of the election legislation of Turkmenistan conducted by the Mission staff, their personal observations and factual material collected during the preparations for the election and directly on election day.
3. Election legislation
The election legislation of Turkmenistan is based on the Constitution and includes the Election Code and other related laws.
On 15 October 2016, the Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan, acting in accordance with Article 81 of the Constitution and Article 4 of the Election Code, adopted a resolution to set the date for the presidential election on 12 February 2017.
The Mission points out that the amendments made to the election legislation over the past few years have adjusted the country's legal framework to the standards of international law regarding democratic elections and created a solid foundation for a free and open expression of the voters' will.
The Mission states that legislative conditions have been created in Turkmenistan for all electoral subjects, including the right and ability to participate or not participate in the election and to elect or be elected on a fair and equitable basis by universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.
The Mission notes that it was the first multiparty presidential election in Turkmenistan and that three political parties took part in the election: the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Agrarian Party. In addition, six candidates were nominated by the public in keeping with Article 46 of the Election Code of Turkmenistan.
The Mission concludes that the above is evidence of compliance with Article 17 of the Constitution (new wording), which declares political diversity and a multiparty system in Turkmenistan.
4. Presidential candidates
Acting in accordance with the law, the Central Election Commission registered nine candidates for the presidency, including:
Jumanazar Annayev, Deputy Head of the Mary Region (welayaty);
Maksat Annanepesov, Deputy Chairman of the State Food Industry Association;
Bekmyrat Atalyev, Board Chairman of the Rysgal Joint Stock Bank;
Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the incumbent President of Turkmenistan;
Meretdurdy Gurbanov, Deputy Head of the Daşoguz Region (welayaty);
Serdar Jelilov, Head of the Main Department of Economic Development of the Ahal Region (welayaty);
Ramazan Durdyyev, Director of the Seydi Oil Refinery;
Suleimannepes Nurnepesov, Director General of Garabogazsulfat Production Association;
Durdygylych Orazov, Chairman of the Mary Region Committee of the Agrarian Party.
5. Election campaign
The Mission points out that the election campaign was held on the basis of openness and publicity and was given detailed and broad media coverage in keeping with the laws of Turkmenistan.
The candidates had equal opportunities in their election campaigns, including an equal amount of free air time and equal opportunities to publish their election materials free of charge.
The media of Turkmenistan, acting in accordance with the election legislation, provided equal coverage of the candidates' election programmes.
The presidential candidates had equal opportunities to hold meetings with the electorate, where they distributed their election materials and explained their programmes. The meetings by presidential candidates and their authorised representatives were held in all regions (welayats) and the capital of Turkmenistan and were broadly covered by the central and regional television networks and radio stations.
The Mission has not received any complaints regarding media coverage of the presidential campaign.
The Mission notes that the Central Election Commission and the election commissions at all other levels worked comprehensively to ensure the election rights of the people by implementing an Action Plan to Prepare and Hold the Election of the President of Turkmenistan.
In all, 2,587 district election commissions were established, including 39 commissions at the diplomatic missions outside Turkmenistan, which registered 3.5 million voters.
The Central Election Commission issued regulations for the welayat (regional), etrap (district), municipal and city district election commissions that included the election methodology and sample election materials, as well as published reference material and aids for public initiative groups, authorised representatives, national and international observers and the media. Seminars were held to train the election commission staff with due regard for the specifics of this year's election campaign.
Videos about the election and the procedures for filling in ballot papers, early voting and voting on election day were shown by national television channels, while audio information was broadcast by radio stations.
Information material, such as the candidates' biographies and election programmes, were published and put on display in public places at the request of the Central Election Commission.
Laws and other legal acts, materials explaining the specifics of the election system in Turkmenistan and news items regarding the election were available on the website of the Central Election Commission.
Election information was also published by the State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH) and Turkmenistan: The Golden Age online resource.
The central and regional print media and television channels provided broad coverage of the elections.
7. Election day
On election day, 12 February 2017, the Mission members arrived at the polling stations and monitored preparations for the election before the polls opened to the public.
The Mission visited 95 polling stations in the cities of Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi and Mary and in the towns of the Ahal, Balkan, Daşoguz and Mary regions (welayats).
The Mission observers visited polling stations randomly and did not coordinate their visits with the executive or election bodies of Turkmenistan. The choice of polling stations was made independently by each member of the Mission. The Mission's plans to visit polling stations were not obstructed or otherwise prevented.
The Mission points out high public participation on election day and a large young voter turnout. First-time voters received commemorative gifts, which was evidence of the event's importance for the young voters and also the government's concern for them. Considerable attention was given to senior voters and people with disabilities.
Members of district election commissions created the necessary conditions for casting ballots, gave detailed answers to people's questions and, in general, attended to the needs of the voters and the national and international observers.
The election commissions' activity can be defined as professional, open, transparent and independent.
The district election commissions had exhaustive information materials about the presidential candidates, voter lists, observers' registers, methodological bulletins and other materials.
The voting proceeded calmly and in keeping with the established procedure and was monitored by national observers from political parties, active members of the public, public associations, candidates, international observers and journalists.
The Mission observers also monitored the closure of the polling stations, the calculation of the votes and the signing of election commission protocols on the election results.
The Mission has not received any complaints about or criticism of the voting procedure.
At the same time, the Mission noticed several technical violations, which were not numerous and could not influence the outcome of the election.
8. Main conclusions
The Mission states that the election of the President of Turkmenistan was held in keeping with the provisions of the election legislation of Turkmenistan and its international obligations.
The Mission has not noticed any violations that could put the legitimacy of the election results in question.
The Mission declares the election open, free, competitive and democratic.
The Mission concludes that this presidential election was a big step on the path of further development of democracy in Turkmenistan.
The Mission congratulates the people of Turkmenistan on electing their President and wishes them success in their efforts to strengthen the independence and sovereignty of Turkmenistan, enhance its internationally recognised status of permanent positive neutrality and boost its socioeconomic development, as well as new achievements in all social spheres, peace and prosperity.
The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is grateful to the Central Election Commission and the Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan for their all-round support and practical assistance to the Mission's work.
The Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
13 February 2017