The Turkmen presidential campaign has produced no surprises yet.
The cookie-cutter candidates running in opposition to President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov all come from state controlled organizations or industries and are not straying from the incumbent's program.
Perhaps their purpose is to get a tiny bit out in front of the Turkmen leader so as to test which ideas are more feasible. For example, Rejep Bazarov, deputy head of the government in Dashoguz velayat (province) proposed that Turkmenistan curtail the practice of hand-picking cotton, and mechanize the harvest. He also wanted to increase manufacturing of products for export in the provinces.
Kakageldi Abdyllaev, head of a branch of Turkmengas has stumped for the building of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline. He believes energy demand from Europe will grow. "Our country will not regret efforts in this direction, since representatives of global oil and gas business have made offers of new projects and proposals in this direction," said Abdyllaev, not specifying which companies. He also called for pumping more gas to China, Iran and Russia, and moving ahead with the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.
Ana Abayeva, a school-teacher in Ashgabat, attempted to run for president but her application was rejected by election officials, the Turkmen Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported. Abayeva was supported by the unregisterend non-governmental organization Civil Society Movement, so the lack of legal status disqualified her candidacy. A Justice Ministry official contacted by RFE/RL said that the NGO would first have to be registered itself.
Abayeva had hoped to promote ideas for improving Turkmenistan's education system, but her proposals had caused problems for her with Educational Ministry officials, says RFE/RL.
Competition among election observers has also heated up. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said it would not formally observe the ballot as conditions for a free election were not present. Only a limited assessment mission will be sent.
Nevertheless, Berdymukhamedov has persisted in speaking of "the OSCE observers." Sergei Lebedev, head of the Commonwealth of Independent States election observers' mission to Turkmenistan, said CIS observers were better than Western observers because "we see more than they do, because we're 'at home.'" He also denounced the European observers as "incompetent -- students and unemployed," and claimed they were sent to deliberately nitpick.