Saturday, May 29, 2010

Two "Parties" in Turkmenistan

Post-Soviet political elites understand that electoral and democratic theater can have some value, even if it is cynical and absurd. The Chronicles of Turkmenistan discusses a plan to create a "Farmer's Party," and Registan.net and Eternal Remont also comment on the purported change. As all three blogs noted, the effort may be a bit too cynical and absurd to gain even the slightest hint of praise from the outside, and it will likely make little difference on the inside.

However, authoritarian regimes usually have patronage networks that extract resources and provide support to the leadership. The creation of a new party apparatus could generate a conduit of material resources that may marginally modify the inner workings of Turkmenistan's political process (as the Registan post also suggests).

Upcoming Votes

The interim government of Kyrgyzstan has scheduled a referendum, presidential election, and parliamentary election. The referendum, Kyrgyzstan's 7th since the collapse of the USSR, would alter the constitution to reduce presidential power. A draft version is available at Kabar.kg in Russian along with a list of changes. Eurasianet has posted an analysis of the changes. The referendum should take place on June 27, 2010. The interim government originally announced that it would hold concurrent presidential and parliamentary elections on October 10, 2010. However, it recently announced a delay to the presidential election, pushing back the date of the first round until December 2011. The decree extending Interim President Otunbayeva's power was published on May 20, 2010.

Local elections are taking place in Georgia tomorrow (IFES has a succinct description of the voting). Mayoral positions, especially in post-Soviet capital cities, are powerful posts. So, it is not surprising that the contest for Tbilisi mayor has been especially visible. This election is, not surprisingly, controversial, and it is particularly perceived as a "test" of embattled President Mikheil Saakashvili. [For a Russian view of the election's problems, see this RIA Novosti story.] Eurasianet also has some interesting coverage of IDPs and voting (here and here).

The OSCE has deployed observation teams for the Kyrgyz referendum and Georgian local elections.

Russia has also held local elections and a couple of the results have not been favorable for United Russia, with the Communist Party candidates winning mayoral races in Bratsk and Irkutsk.