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Turkmenistan Gets Its Second Political Party

The face of the political opposition in Turkmenistan...under the face of power.
The face of the political opposition in Turkmenistan...under the face of power.
The days of one-party rule are over in Turkmenistan. Well, at least the days of the one-party ballot are over.

Launched on August 21 at the congress of a trade organization of the same name in Ashgabat, the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs may finally give the citizens of Turkmenistan -- already basking in the glow of the country’s “Era of Supreme Happiness” -- a real choice at the ballot box. [Read in Turkmen]

That seems unlikely, however, if the decor is any indication. The new party was christened by a panel seated comfortably under an absurdly large photo of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

Created under the auspices of the country’s “Political Parties Act,” which was adopted in January by Turkmenistan’s rubber-stamp parliament, the new party faces an uphill battle in its electoral fight against the president’s Democratic Party ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled to take place sometime in 2013.

Incumbancy can be an advantage in elections, especially ones that are rigged from the top down. The Democratic Party holds nearly every seat in Turkmenistan’s unicameral legislature, and Berdymukhammedov is not one to leave things in question when it comes to elections.

Just a month after touting the new political parties law, he won a second term as president, drubbing his “opponents” -- all from his party -- with 97 percent of the vote on 96 percent turnout. There were reports during the “campaign” that those vying for the highest office in the land, including the country’s energy and industry minister, were actively encouraging voters to reelect the president.

Now, with the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs -- and the possibility of another, the Agrarian Party -- stepping into the electoral fray, Turkmenistan’s protector may be looking at returns in just the low 90s or -- gasp -- the high 80s.

With enemies like that, who needs friends?

--Zach Peterson & Muhammad Tahir

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