Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan, has won a new seven-year term in the November 6 elections with 83.1 percent of the votes. The Tajik Central Election Commission (CEC) announced the turnout was 86.6 percent. Rahmon, who is in power of the poorest former Soviet republic since 1992, will begin his fourth term. He has increased the number and length of the president’s terms by revising the constitution through a referendum. The term he is currently facing will therefore be his last one, according to the constitution.
Rahmon ran in the presidential campaign against five little-known, even inside the country, and largely loyal candidates. Among these candidates were Secretary of the Communist Party and MP Ismoil Talbakov, Chairman of the Democratic Party Saidjafar Ismonov, Chairman of the Socialist Party Abduhalim Gafforov, a representative of the Agrarian Party Tolibbek Bukhoriev and Chairman of the Party of Economic Reform Olimjon Boboev. The potentially most significant rival candidate, female rights lawyer Oinihol Bobonazarova of the moderate opposition Islamic Revival Party, was banned from the polls since she had failed to collect the necessary 210,000 signatures of eligible voters to be officially registered. The OSCE stated on this that ‘restrictive requirements , including the unreasonably large number of signatures potential candidates must gather to qualify, present significant obstacles and are at odds with OSCE commitments and other standards for democratic elections’.
The opposition accuses Rahmon of developing a personality cult. Rahmon himself denies this claim. A main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, boycotted the elections due to ‘violations of the constitution, organised falsifications and a lack of democracy and transparency’. A group of international observers has said the Tajik presidential election lacked pluralism and genuine choice. Presidential adviser to the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, Andres Baker, said together with an OSCE observer in Dushanbe that ‘while quiet and peaceful, this was an election without a real choice’. ‘While there was extensive state media coverage of the official activities of the incumbent president, that meant that he had a significant advantage throughout the campaign,’ Baker added.
Rahmon’s supporters credit him with securing peace and stability in the wake of the country’s five year civil war in the 1990s. However, he is widely criticized for marginalizing the opposition, cracking down on independent media, and mishandling the economy. Besides, Tajikistan has no record of free and fair elections. In spite of the easy victory, critics have said Rahmon will face rising social tension in his country where about 50 percent of the population lives in poverty. More than one million Tajiks migrants work abroad, especially in Russia, sending money home to their families.
Sources: RFE/RL, AlJazeera, Reuters, BBC