Ashgabat, 15 February 2017 (nCa) — It is too early to comment on the nature of any new content in the foreign policy directions of Turkmenistan, and by extension the regional dynamics. — President Berdymuhamedov has just won a third term in a landslide victory in the elections and we are still a couple of days away from his formal inauguration in office.
Any attempt to comment on the probable shape of regional interaction in the weeks and months to come would be no more than the narration of the first impression. Nevertheless, it is important to record that first impression because it may serve as the datum line for future analyses and interpretations of events and developments as they unfold.
The elections were held on 12 February 2017 and the election commission announced on 13 February 2017 that the incumbent president, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, had bagged 97.69% of the cast votes. For those wondering as to how it was possible to count the votes in about 12 hours, here is a bit of math – The total number of polling stations was 2548 and each polling station had 900 to 1500 registered voters. The number of election staff at each polling station was 10 to 18. It means that the average number of voters at each station was 1200 and average number of election staff at each station was 14. Assuming that two of the staff would be in supervisory capacity, there would be 12 persons to count 1200 votes i.e. each person had to count only 100 votes. The voting process closed at 7pm. Considering that there were three rounds of counting to eliminate any errors, the entire contents of the ballot box would have been counted by 9pm. Each polling station was in touch with the constituency, district and provincial offices and each district and provincial office was directly linked with the head office in Ashgabat.
The election commission announced the results on 13 February 2017 at a press conference but stopped short of formally issuing formal notification on the technicality that a small number of votes from remote areas and polling stations abroad were still to be counted. Nonetheless, with nearly 98% votes, there was no doubt that Berdymuhamedov had won another term in office.
Within a few hours the heads of foreign states started sending congratulatory messages. The first message was from President Putin of Russia, followed by messages from the presidents of China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, and Afghanistan.
On 14 February 2017, the election commission issued formal decision to declare Berdymuhamedov as the winner of the elections. The inauguration ceremony will take place later this week.
The same day, Berdymuhamedov had telephone talks with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev of Russia, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, and President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan.
The conversations were more than just formal exchange of pleasantries – the sides actually discussed speeding up and bolstering the ongoing processes and exchanged views of several regional matters.
Berdymuhamedov invited them for official visits during this year.
The Turkmen president had separate meetings with Ilyas Umakhanov, the deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Council, and Sergei Lebedev, the executive secretary of CIS.
It is easy to draw some conclusions from this flurry of activity:
- Russia has extended a hand of friendship to Turkmenistan in a big way. This is a promising new start – if it continues going in the right direction, and there is no reason to think why it shouldn’t, it would not only be a mutually rewarding partnership but would also contribute hugely to the regional economic and political stability.
- Three important neighbours of Turkmenistan – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan – have expressed solidarity, adding another layer of trust to the relationship.
- China and Turkey, by sending the messages of felicitation immediately, have confirmed the desire to strengthen their robust, comprehensive partnership with Turkmenistan and the region.
There is the sense of heightened confidence to work together for the sake of shared future. It is a situation where the sum total promises to be more than its component parts.