Turkmenistan’s New Electoral Code and Other Unicorn Sightings

Turkmenistan has announced that it has overhauled its electoral code in accord with international norms so that when it holds its next un-free, unfair, pre-determined election, it will look good doing so.

The Majlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan at its regular meeting adopted a decision on the approval of the Electoral Code developed in accordance with international norms, the government of Turkmenistan reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the Electoral Code regulates relations arising during the preparation and conduction of referendums, presidential elections, elections to Majlis, as well as to local self-government authorities: khalg maslahaty and gengeshs, arranging guarantees for the free expression of the will of citizens of Turkmenistan.

The saddest part of all of this is that Turkmenistan — one of the worst dictatorships in Asia (where that counts for something) — is not going to hear anything much about this. They will receive pats on the head from multinational organizations, states, and NGOs who expect no better of Ashgabat than window dressing. In the interim, its citizens toil in a repressive dictatorship with a dysfunctional economy, where the best economic news of the day is that the country is finally, after two decades of negotiations, opening a railroad link with Kazakhstan and Iran.

Neither of whom, it bears mentioning, have much to offer economically or politically.

In a just world, the Council of Europe and Turkmenistan’s neighbors and geopolitical allies would use this as a teaching opportunity, to show Ashgabat the possibilities of reform and help them draw slowly toward it, through carrots and sticks. Instead, it will be yet another blown chance for a country on whom the world gave up decades ago.

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