Tajikistan re-elected the incumbent president of the Republic, Emomali Rahmov, in Wednesday’s presidential election. Rahmov will now serve for another presidential term. He has led the Central Asian country since 1992 and brought back peace after civil war in 1997.
Tajikistan is a post-Soviet presidential republic whose president has strong powers compared to the Parliament and who has control over the judiciary system. Presidents can seek re-election for two seven-year terms. Thanks to the 2006 constitutional reform, Rahmov is serving for his second and last term. The president is directly elected by the absolute majority of votes cast. It is reported that Rahmov obtained nearly 84% of the votes and that 87% of the population voted. The Constitution establishes that more than half of the registered voters must vote for the election to be valid. According to national authorities, competing candidate Olimjon Boboev obtained 3.8% of the votes; Tolibek Buhoriev, 4.5%; Abdukhalim Gaffurov, 1.5%; Saidjafar Ismonov, 1%; and Ismoil Talbakov, 5%.
Rahmov competed against five candidates, whose names and programs were hardly known to the public as these reports by BBC Persian and RFE/RL show. As denounced by Human Rights Watch, opposition candidates had no or only restricted access to media and newspapers and some of them have been arrested or forced to give up the candidacy. In April 2013, Said Saidov, a businessman and former industry minister, announced the establishment of a new opposition political force named New Tajikistan. In May, Saidov was arrested. Another candidate, Oynikhol Bobonazarova, was nominated by the opposition coalition Union of Progressive Forces, but the signatures supporting her candidacy were found not to be valid. RFE/RL also reported some irregularities in electoral procedures. In Tajikistan, there is only one TV channel with national coverage, the state-owned Tajik TV, and one daily newspaper, ‘Emrouz’ (Today’s News). Despite the growing importance of Internet, Tajik citizens find it hard to have access to it because of the poor electric network, which has no national coverage, and because of state control. Before the election day, two online news portals, YouTube and Ozodegan website, were blocked. The authorities have not commented on this Internet blackout.
Despite being a multi-party system (there were eight registered parties) and despite the presence of six candidates, Tajik elections can hardly be considered free and fair according to international observers. Nevertheless, the president has announced on several public occasions that this was meant to be the most free and democratic presidential race since independence. A similar opinion was expressed by Sergey Lebedev, the head of the observer mission from the Conferederation of Independent States.
Elections in Tajikistan are crucial for stability in the region, considering the draw-down of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan in 2014. Tajikistan neighbours Afghanistan and is close to Northern Pakistan, a very sensitive area for counter-insurgency operations. Furthermore, Tajikistan is home to a large Uzbek minority and neighbours South Kyrgyzstan, where low-intensity clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks take place regularly.