According to preliminary results of the May 22th Constitutional referendum, with a turnout of 92 percent, 94.5 percent voted in favour of the constitutional changes. 63-year-old ruling president Emomali Rahmon can now run for office indefinitely.
Among the 41 amendments were changes as a removal of the term limit, lower the minimum age of a presidential candidate from 35 to 30, prohibit the establishment of religious-based or atheistic political parties and abolish the Court of Justice. Eliminating the term limit will strengthen the power of authoritarian president Emomali Rahmon, who is already head of state since 1992 and president since 1994. This amendment only applies to Rahmon, who was granted the status of “Leader of the Nation” by the Parliament. This status gives Rahmon and his family immunity from criminal prosecution. The amendment of lowering the age limit could enable president Rahmon’s 29-year-old son, Rustam Emomali, to participate in the next elections.
During his 24-years rule, president Rahmon silenced almost all the opposition. In the months before the referendum, authorities dismantled systematically the few remaining dissents. Last year the government declared the only formal opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) a terrorist group and banned it. Some IRPT leaders are facing lifetime sentences being accused of plotting a coup. The new rule of prohibiting the establishment of religious-based political parties will prevent the IRPT to be reformed under a new name.
According to a Russian observer, the referendum was held in full compliance with the country’s laws. According to Western election monitors however, elections in the ex-Soviet nation have never been free nor fair.
Sources: BBC, Reuters, RFE/RL, Dailystar, DW,