Taking advantage of the fact that he is not just a Presidential candidate but the person who is running for his second term in office, Berdymukhammedov could well submit a report summing up his accomplishments over the previous five years instead of presenting his election agenda to showcase that he is not “all talk and no trousers” and that he fulfilled what he had promised..
Let’s have a look and make an assessment as voters.
At the beginning of his Presidential career Berdymukhammedov:
- prohibited the involvement of children in all kinds of festivities. “Do not arrange a grand red-carpet welcome with the participation of kids for me. Five to six yashuli are enough” – he said. So what?! Hundreds of children are brought from all schools and kindergartens in the summer heat and winter cold urged to line up waiting for the President for hours. The promise was not fulfilled.
- promised to develop tourism. “Welcome to Turkmenistan!” Commercials with this slogan were broadcast on Russian channels for several months. For some reason no visitors came. A Turkmen who is waiting for the guests, ties a dog to a short leash. Maybe the unleashed dog is the reason for the shortage of tourists? Anyhow, the promise was not fulfilled.
- proclaimed education reform. The length of study was extended but the quality of education did not improve. The residents tried to secure places for their children in private Turkish schools as well as in classes with Russian as the language of instruction in exchange for bribes. In other words, the population “votes with their feet” by demonstrating to the authorities that the quality of Turkmen education is considerably lower than in universities abroad. The authorities did not bear the unflattering comparison. Turkish schools were closed and the students were barred from traveling to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (it turned out that several thousands of Turkmen citizens are doing a course of studies there). Those applying for student exchange programs are prevented from doing so. The reform was not implemented. Apparently, the comprehensive restructuring program was not even designed.
- declared the provision of Internet access. 15 internet cafes were opened but rigid visitation rules were introduced. A visitor is obliged to show ID and register in a logbook indicating Internet surfing time. The main provider of Internet services, the Russian-based company MTS was forced to curtail its operations and shut down business. Rigid censorship and virtually a total control of electronic correspondence are rampant. Low speed and not easily accessible Internet is available. The promise was partially fulfilled.
- announced that the practice of demolishing residential houses would cease. The houses in many districts of Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi and other towns are still being demolished. The villages of Tarta and Avaza were totally torn down. The residents, whose houses were subjected to demolition, arranged an act of protest in Ashgabat and the initiators were arrested by the police. The houses were knocked down. The promise was not fulfilled.
- declared the need to create political parties. Five years later only the law on parties was adopted. Political parties have not been set up or registered. Despite the fact that the law on NGOs had been long endorsed but during five years the incumbent has been in power only one non-government public association (the society of guitar players) was registered, let alone parties. The promise was not fulfilled.
Shall we give more examples to the President? The program to improve social and living conditions in rural areas deteriorated to the construction of six Potemkin villages… What else?
The Abadan tragedy is without doubt an exceptional case. Yet, the President behaved in the manner unsuitable for me and in contradiction to Turkmen traditions. We will not blame him for what has happened, but the incident demonstrated his managerial skills.
Everybody is aware of his publicized worldwide pledge to invite the opposition to stand for elections …
The only accomplishment highlighted by the President in his election program is the setting up of the first (and only!) private newspaper “Rysgal”. Indeed, very little has been accomplished during five years.
Perhaps it is not too late to include other items in his election agenda (and subsequently implement them!), which will bring tangible results and help radically improve the situation in the economic, social, domestic and foreign policy spheres… To be continued