No surprises in Tajikistan as Rahmon retains presidency with 91% of vote

No surprises in Tajikistan as Rahmon retains presidency with 91% of vote
Rahmon at the Rogun dam construction site.
By Nizom Khodjayev in Nur-Sultan October 13, 2020

Tajikistan's authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon officially won 90.92% of the vote, securing him a fifth presidential term, according to preliminary results announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on October 12.

Elections in the mountainous republic have never been considered free or fair by foreign

Tajikistan's authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon officially won 90.92% of the vote in the weekend’s presidential election, securing him a fifth presidential term, according to preliminary results announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on October 12.

Elections in the mountainous republic have never been considered free or fair by foreign observers. The largely ceremonial day at the ballot box grants 68-year-old Rahmon another seven years at the reins of the country, Central Asia’s poorest. No genuine opposition figures are present on the Tajik ballot. Rahmon’s “competition” was made up of Rustam Latifzoda of the Agrarian Party; Miroj Abdulloev of the Communist Party; Abduhalim Ghafforov of the Socialist Party; and Rustam Rahmatzoda of the Party of Economic Reforms. None of these names particularly mattered—real opposition figures were cracked down on as a matter of routine ahead of the election. Speculation that Rahmon would this time around stand aside in favour of his son, Rustam Emomali, proved ill-founded.

CEC chairman Bakhtiyor Khudoyorzoda said the poll saw 85.4% of the electorate cast their ballots. 

RFE/RL reported that two voters in the city of Khujand openly said that they had cast more than one ballot. The two women claimed the votes were cast on behalf of their family members—an unlawful practice according to Tajik electoral law.  

The Social Democratic Party, the only genuine political opposition group in Tajikistan, boycotted the election. The party’s leader Rahmatullo Zoirov told RFE/RL that voting in the election was pointless, since the CEC would forge its own numbers and results regardless of the actual vote count. 

In office longer than Lukashenko

Rahmon came to power in 1992 and is seen as the only post-Soviet autocrat to have held office longer than Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko.

The election took place following a sharp weakening of the Tajik economy because of coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns. Hundreds of thousands of Tajik migrant labourers have been unable to make the annual journey to Russia for work. Tajikistan is one of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world.

With the Tajik opposition suppressed, Rahmon’s sturdy grip on power is unlikely to be shaken by any consequences of the election—in contrast to events in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, where the parliamentary elections of just over a week ago have led to street protests, political turmoil and a state of emergency in the country.  

The Tajik election was the first to lack the presence of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), long seen as the only political force capable of genuinely rivalling Rahmon, but by now banned in Tajikistan. Tajikistan’s Supreme Court outlawed the IRPT and labelled it a "terrorist organisation” in 2015. Multiple members of the party have been either imprisoned or forced into self-imposed exile.  

Rahmon positions himself as a guarantor of stability in a nation that saw civil war in the 1990s. observers. The largely ceremonial election grants Rahmon another seven years at the helm of the Central Asian nation. No genuine opposition figures are present on the Tajik ballot. Rahmon’s “competition” was made up of Rustam Latifzoda of the Agrarian Party; Miroj Abdulloev of the Communist Party; Abduhalim Ghafforov of the Socialist Party; and Rustam Rahmatzoda of the Party of Economic Reforms. None of these names particularly matter - as real opposition figures are routinely cracked down on ahead of the election.

CEC chairman Bakhtiyor Khudoyorzoda said the October 11 poll saw 85.4% of the electorate cast their ballots. 

Rahmon has held power since 1992 and is seen as the only post-Soviet autocrat in power, holding office slightly longer than Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko.

The election came with the Tajik economy weakened by coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns. Hundreds of thousands of Tajik migrant labourers have been unable to travel to Russia for work. Tajikistan is one of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world.

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