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Central Asia news

The population of Tajikistan will vote for the acting president

23.10.2006 16:48 msk

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Politics Tajikistan

On November 6, the country will elect the head of state for the next seven years. Mirzoali Boltuyev, Chairman of the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums, says that the first phase of preparations for the elections is over now and the second phase is under way.

There are eight political parties in Tajikistan, and five of them polled more than 5% of signatures necessary for registration of nominated candidates. Masud Sobirov's Democratic Party of Tajikistan failed to collect the necessary number of voters' signatures. Its candidate is not going to run for president. The Social Democratic Party and Party of Islamic Revival dropped from the race altogether. Of the remaining five, the ruling party is the unquestionable leader. The People's Democratic Party nominated President Emomali Rakhmonov for another term of office and easily produced 685,000 signatures in his support. The Party of Economic Reforms collected 186,000 signatures for its candidate Olimjon Boboyev, Agrarian Party 175,000 for Amir Karakulov, Socialist Party 165,000 for Abduhalim Gafforov, and Communist Party 124,000 for Ismoil Talbakov.

What is happening in Tajikistan nowadays reminds observers of elections in the former USSR. Formally, however, the regime is demonstrating a multi-party system in action and uses modern methods of political struggle (public discussion of pressing issues and TV debates).

That Rakhmonov will come in first in the election is practically a foregone conclusion. What is going to happen after the election, however, is anybody's guess. Tajikistan is facing a great deal of complicated problems and solutions to them depend to a considerable degree on relations with neighbors on the one hand and regional and world powers on the other. As a matter of fact, interaction with foreign countries is one of the vital factors in itself, and relations with Uzbekistan doubly so. Tashkent's stand on the events in Tajikistan in the 1990's was determined by territorial claims to Uzbekistan put forth by some representatives of the Tajik opposition and by aggression with regard to ethnic Uzbeks in Tajikistan.

Almost 90% of the economic potential of Tajikistan are concentrated in two enclaves - the Hojent region (where Uzbeks account for more than one third of the population) and the Gissar Valley that includes Dushanbe, Tursun-Zade and the Regard Aluminium Factory. Their existence depends on stable contacts with Uzbekistan. Import of natural gas from Uzbekistan is of a paramount importance too.

Terrorism and drugs smuggled into Tajikistan are major headaches as well. It is common knowledge that some drug-producing laboratories in the Afghani provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, and Badakhshan are run by representatives of the Tajik opposition, hence the attention focused on proper defense of the Tajik-Afghani border. Moscow succeeded in establishing and maintaining relative stability in Tajikistan. Its 201st Motorized Infantry Division was transformed into the 4th Military Base - the largest Russian military base abroad discounting the base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Russian companies are building the Sangtuda and Rogun hydroelectric power plants.

Tajikistan is the only Central Asian country that is not Turkish-speaking. It sets it apart from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan that enjoy cultural and historical traditions and similar languages. The Tajiks in their turn gravitate towards Iran and Afghanistan. Neither shall the Islamic factor be discounted. More than 95% of the population are Moslems (usually Sunni of the Hanifa religious school). Politization of Islam is parochial society's reaction to rapid and frequently destructive industrialization. Thousands and thousands were deported from the mountainous regions in the southwest of the country were deported into the steppes for cultivation of cotton between the 1930's and the 1960's. The latest campaign so far was launched in the second half of the 1980's, the period when cultivation of cotton was expanded and mountainous ravines were flooded for the future Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant. Dissatisfaction of the population grew and evolved in the direction of Islam. Shortly speaking, problems of the socioeconomic development of the country are far from being solved, just as they were years ago.

Jibek Saparbekovna Syzdykova (Director of the Center of Central Asian and Caucasus Studies of the Institute of Countries of Asia and Africa of the Moscow State University)

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 23, 2006, p. 15

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru