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Turkmenistan Publishes List Of Election Winners

Voting in Ashgabat on December 14
ASHGABAT (Reuters) -- Turkmenistan has unveiled a list of deputies elected in the December 14 parliamentary poll that Western rights groups said deprived voters of a genuine choice.

Ninety percent of candidates were members of the Democratic Party led by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. A handful of independent candidates represented state-controlled groups.

A list of 123 winners, published in the official press, said nothing about their party affiliation but that is seen as a technicality unlikely to affect the nature of a new 125-seat parliament, which is expected to echo the official line.

The list included senior officials such as the first secretary of the Democratic Party, the only party registered in Turkmenistan, as well as tax officials, teachers, and other civil servants.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chose not to monitor the poll, saying the country's laws did not provide for genuine competition. Human Rights Watch criticized the vote for offering voters no real alternatives.

Western governments, eyeing gas-rich Turkmenistan as a potential new source of energy for Europe, have been more reserved and have yet to offer their assessment of the vote.

Turkmen voters will cast ballots in the election's second round on December 28 and February 8 to elect the remaining two candidates.

The former Soviet country has been emerging from isolation since absolute leader Saparmurat Niyazov died in 2006 after a 21-year iron-fisted reign. The new president, Berdymukhammedov, has vowed to press ahead with reform and liberalize its laws.

The elections were the centerpiece of his reform plan, which aims to create a more powerful parliament that would carry greater weight in national decision-making. The new leader has also dropped all references to Niyazov from the national anthem and promised to open the country to foreign investment.