ARTICLE OF THE ISSUE
MEJLIS: TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
Elections to the new unicameral Parliament (Mejlis) of Turkmenistan were undoubtedly the main political event of the year. It marked an important stage of state building – the transition from a bicameral parliament to a unicameral one. Turkmenistan established a bicameral parliament in September 2021. In January of this year, the country returned to the idea of a unicameral parliament – the Mejlis.
Preparations for the elections and the very conduct of voting were closely monitored by the groups of international observers. In fact, members of the mission of observers from the CIS visited the regions of Turkmenistan as part of monitoring the elections. In particular, the observers from the CIS visited Dashoguz province, where they discussed the electoral process at the meetings with district election commissions, visited a number of polling stations in the city of Dashoguz and Kunyaurgench district. In general, representatives of the mission gave a positive assessment of the level of preparedness of members of the election commissions and technical equipment of polling stations.
On the eve of elections, President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov received CIS Secretary General Sergei Lebedev, who headed the mission of observers from the CIS countries during elections to the Mejlis of the country. The sides exchanged views on the pace of the election campaign and discussed priority issues relating to cooperation in the CIS format. Noting that Turkmenistan values the traditional relations of friendship and good neighborliness with all CIS member states, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov thanked CIS Secretary General Sergei Lebedev for effective coordination of the interstate partnership.
On the actual day of elections in Turkmenistan, voting began at 07.00 and ended at 19.00 (local time) at 2602 polling stations. In addition, voting took place at 42 polling stations that were set up at the diplomatic missions of Turkmenistan abroad from 07.00 to 19.00 local time of the individual country. In total, 3,496,475 voters were registered in Turkmenistan. In addition, 13,078 voters were registered in foreign countries.
The legislation of Turkmenistan does not establish a turnout threshold. Therefore, elections are recognized as valid with any turnout of voters. A candidate receiving more than half of votes of the electorate who took part in the voting is considered elected. A citizen of Turkmenistan aged 25, who has been permanently residing in Turkmenistan for the last ten years, may be elected as a member of the Mejlis.
The structure of the Turkmen parliament is as follows. The Mejlis consists of 125 deputies, elected for 5 years on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage, by secret ballot in districts with an approximately equal number of voters. 258 candidates nominated by groups of citizens and three political parties of the country – the Democratic Party, the Agrarian Party and the Party of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs – contended 125 seats in the parliament in the current elections.
On the day of elections, voting at the polling stations was well-organized, with high turnout of voters. The organizers created all necessary conditions for the citizens of Turkmenistan abroad to fully exercise their constitutional right. According to observers, from the first minutes of the opening of polling stations, the elections demonstrated the high civic responsibility of the country’s citizens living, working and studying in various countries of the world.
President Serdar Berdimuhamedov also cast his ballot in the elections of members of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan and local authorities. Early in the morning, the head of state arrived at polling station No. 48, located in specialized secondary school No. 68 named after Annaniyaz Artyk in Kopetdag district of Ashgabat. The President of Turkmenistan voted for the worthiest candidates, thereby fulfilling his civic duty and exercising his constitutional right. Serdar Berdimuhamedov wished the members of the election commission the successful work in the elections that are regarded as an important social and political event. Expressing confidence that the elections in the country would be held at a high level, the head of state wished the Turkmen people a happy life and further prosperity of the country.
The national leader of the Turkmen people, Chairman of the Khalk Maslakhaty (People’s Council) Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov also voted at the same polling station.
The final turnout in the elections to the Mejlis of Turkmenistan was 91.12 percent. This was reported by the Central Commission on Elections and Referenda in Turkmenistan. The turnout of voters in Akhal province was 91.74 percent, in Balkan province – 91.49 percent, in Dashoguz province – 90.94 percent, in Lebap province – 91.17 percent, in Mary province – 90.87 percent, and Ashgabat – 90.91 percent.
Speaking at the briefings on the results of monitoring of preparation and conduct of elections by international observers representing the CIS, the Organization of Turkic States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the heads of observing missions noted that the parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan were held in an organized manner, on a competitive basis, in conditions of openness, transparency and with high turnout of the electorate.
According to the participants of the briefings, the invitation of international observers is seen as a desire of the country’s leadership to ensure maximum transparency and democracy in the electoral process in Turkmenistan. As was noted, the observers made their assessment based on the analysis of the national electoral legislation, direct observations and factual material collected during the work of mission members in the country. The observers emphasized that the Electoral Code of Turkmenistan complies with the universally accepted norms of international law in the field of democratic elections and ensures the free and open expression of the will of voters.
In this regard, according to international observers, the elections held on March 26, 2023, were held in accordance with the Constitution, the Electoral Code of Turkmenistan and universally accepted democratic norms.
Following the full count of votes, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda in Turkmenistan held a meeting to present the outcomes of the elections of members of the Mejlis. It was noted that all stages of the election campaign were carried out in a timely manner, in accordance with the requirements of the current national legislation. It was also emphasized that the current elections were held based on the principles of competitiveness, transparency and openness, in accordance with universally accepted international standards. According to information from the election committees of Ashgabat and regions of the country, 125 members of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan of the new convocation were elected out of 258 candidates.
The first meeting of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan of the seventh convocation was held at the Center for Public Associations in Ashgabat under the chairmanship of President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov.
During the meeting, the powers of all 125 elected members of parliament were confirmed, new leadership of the national parliament was elected, and the priority tasks facing the members of parliament were outlined.
Speaking at the meeting, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov noted that in accordance with Article 80 of the Constitution of Turkmenistan and Article 8 of the Law of Turkmenistan “On the Mejlis of Turkmenistan”, the speaker of the national parliament and his deputy should be elected out of the members of parliament, and the Mejlis committees should be established and their leaders elected.
At the suggestion of the members of parliament, Dunyagozel Gulmanova, representing constituency No. 5 “Parahatcylyk” of the city of Ashgabat was nominated for the position of Speaker of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan. Following a secret ballot, Gulmanova was unanimously elected the Speaker of the Turkmen parliament, and the President of Turkmenistan signed the law of Turkmenistan on election of Dunyagozel Gulmanova to the post of Speaker of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan.
Addressing the head of state, members of parliament and all those present at the meeting, the Speaker of the Mejlis expressed her gratitude for the trust place in her and assured that she would use her experience and knowledge to the best of her ability to address the tasks set for the legislative body of the country.
Then, Gahryman Rozyev, member of parliament from constituency No. 77 “Farap” of Lebap province, was nominated for the position of Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Turkmenistan. Following an open vote, Rozyev was unanimously elected Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, and the President of Turkmenistan signed a law to this effect.
During the parliamentary session, the following eight committees were established:
– on protection of human rights and freedoms;
– on legislation and its norms;
– on economic issues;
– on social policy;
– on science, education, culture and youth policy;
– on environmental protection, nature management and agro-industrial complex;
– on international and inter-parliamentary relations;
– on interaction with local authorities and self-government bodies.
On President Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s suggestion, the meeting discussed the election of heads of the main committees of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan. As a result, by the resolutions of the parliament, the following members of parliament were elected chairs of the Mejlis committees: Yusupguly Eshaev – on protection of human rights and freedoms, Batyr Bailyev – on legislation and its norms, Guvanchmyrat Agayev – on economic issues, Annamuhammet Sarjaev – on social policy, Bahar Seyidova – on science, education, culture and youth policy, Charygeldy Babanyazov – on environmental protection, nature management and agro-industrial complex, Begmurat Mukhamedov – on international and inter-parliamentary relations, Maksatberdi Gurbanov – on interaction with local authorities and self-government bodies.
After completing the establishment of the governing structures of the parliament, President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov outlined the pressing tasks facing the parliamentarians of the new convocation.
Among the priority tasks facing the Mejlis of Turkmenistan of the seventh convocation President Serdar Berdimuhamedov named the need to systematically strengthen contacts with the parliaments of other states and leading international structures in order to promote the country’s foreign policy at the world stage through parliamentary diplomacy. At the same time, the expediency of new methods of interaction for exchange of experience with inter-parliamentary friendship groups, between relevant committees, young parliamentarians and women parliamentarians was noted. The new composition of the parliament provides all favorable conditions for this. According to the data announced at the first meeting of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan of the new convocation, more than a quarter of the members of parliament are women, and the majority of elected members of parliament are representatives of the younger generation.
The head of state also instructed the new members of the Mejlis to prepare the new edition of the Civil Code of Turkmenistan, taking into account the realities of the present time and best international practice.