[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 09:52 GMT
Turkmenistan poll turnout 'low'
By Monica Whitlock
BBC correspondent in Tashkent

A woman votes in Ashgabat - Mr Niyazov's statue is seen in the background
Turkmenistan's citizens are not offered an opposition to vote for
The government of Turkmenistan has hailed Sunday's parliamentary elections as a triumph of democracy.

But official figures say that 76% of the electorate voted - less than the turnout that would normally be expected.

No opposition candidate was standing for membership in what is seen as a powerless parliament.

Foreign diplomats have called the election a sham and further evidence of Mr Niyazov's exclusive hold on power.

State-run Turkmen television reported jubilant scenes, with voters dancing and folk bands playing in the streets to celebrate what it called "a triumph of true democracy".

There is a holiday atmosphere, it said, with election officials handing gifts to first-time voters, including towels, notebooks and free copies of the Ruknama, a collection of sayings apparently written by Mr Niyazov.

"Our first and eternal president", the television called him.

But informal reports tell a different story. Residents in the capital, Ashkabad, said they saw few people going to vote.

They said there was widespread indifference to a poll in which there were no opposition parties and every single candidate had sworn lifelong loyalty to President Niyazov.

The turnout was announced soon after polls had closed - 76 %.

That is less than the near 100% figures Turkmenistan usually expects, but few people will take the figure seriously enough to read meaning into the change.

The last few years have seen Turkmenistan more and more isolated.

Few people have contact with the outside world, with what they see and hear completely controlled by the state.

The only window on the world some do have is through satellite television. Not long ago only the elite watched, but now every apartment building is covered with satellite dishes.

Turkmenistan's 'sham poll' closes
19 Dec 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Turkmenistan: Isolated but dangerous
27 Feb 03 |  Asia-Pacific
The cult of the Turkmen leader
02 Nov 01 |  Asia-Pacific

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific