19 november 2019

Central Asia news

Outcome of the presidential election in Tajikistan is a foregone conclusion

25.10.2006 13:05 msk

Arkady Dubnov

Politics Tajikistan

With less than two weeks left before election of the president in Tajikistan, the campaign remains absolutely unhurried and lax. No wonder. That Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmonov, 54, will come in first is a foregone conclusion. The referendum in Tajikistan in June 2003 amended the Constitution, prolonged presidency to two seven-year terms, and made it plain that the thought of retirement was the furthest from Rakhmonov's mind. The referendum made it plain, in fact, that Rakhmonov is resolved to remain in the driver's seat until 2020.

Rakhmonov's critics promptly accused him of the determination to usurp the state power but failed to muster broad support in Tajikistan itself or abroad. (Rakhmonov in the meantime has been running Tajikistan for over 14 years now.) First, Rakhmonov had every reason in the world three years ago to announce that he was having the Constitution amended in the name of stability. Second, there is not a single Central Asian leader in post-Soviet era who failed to employ the same trick to retain power. Third, it is with Rakhmonov's name that most Tajiks associate the beginning of restoration of the country in the wake of the disastrous civil war. The Moscow Peace Accord (1997) that put an end to the fratricide bears the signatures of Rakhmonov and Said Abdullo Nuri, former leader of the Tajik opposition who died earlier this year.

Four candidates are racing Rakhmonov for presidency, but their names are absolutely unknown to foreign observers or even to the majority of the Tajik voters. (These latter number over 3 million; what is to be done about more than 0.5 million Tajik Gastarbeiters in Russia, Kazakhstan, and other countries is anybody's guess at this point.)

The Tajik Socialist Party nominated Abduhalim Gafforov, Director of the Professional Skills Upgrade Center for tutors. Gafforov has seven children and five grandchildren (Rakhmonov nine and six). In 1997, six years after the collapse of communism on one-sixth part of the world, Gafforov defended the thesis "The role of professional collectives in communist upbringing". The authorities engineered a split of the Tajik Socialist Party in 2004. Mirhusein Narziyev, leader of "old-time" Socialists, is denied registration as a candidate. Gafforov, leader of the new Socialist Party, admits that "it is not easy for him to run against the Great Leader Emomali Rakhmonov."

Amir Karakulov, 64, Director of the Cattle Breeding Research Center and candidate nominated by the Agrarian Party, shares these sentiments. Cloned from the namesake party, the Agrarian Party was established on the eve of the election last year. Judging by his program, Karakulov stands for "a healthy atmosphere, social and otherwise, for the citizenry as the physical and intellectual wealth of the nation."

The Party of Economic Reforms is another political clone. Its candidate is Olimjon Boboyev of the Tashkent Institute of Transport. Ismail Talbakov of the Communist Party is the last candidate. Communist Party leader Shodi Shobdolov is prominent enough to have become the only familiar face among Rakhmonov's rivals but he is not running. Probably because he knows the rules of the game known as Election of the President. That he does is confirmed by his own words recently - words to the effect that "communists cannot be in the opposition and criticize the authorities or investments will never come to the country."

Moreover, what happens to critics of the regime is common knowledge, even when the matter concerns ex-confidants of the president himself. Former interior minister Yakub Salimov was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment not long ago. Former commander of the National Guard Gaffor Mirzoyev drew lifetime sentence. Democratic Party leader Mahmadruzi Iskandarov kidnapped in Russia and smuggled into Tajikistan was sentenced to 20 years behind the bars...

As for investments, Tajikistan is in the focus of attention of world powers nowadays and the latter are already investing millions. Chinese, Iranian, American, and Russian companies operate in the Tajik market. Official Dushanbe is euphoric over the prospects of the continued economic growth. Washington at least is quite optimistic on that score. US State Undersecretary Richard Boucher visited Dushanbe a couple of weeks ago. "The forthcoming election will become another step... to establishment of the institutions that will facilitate stability in Tajikistan," Boucher said after his meeting with Rakhmonov.

Vremya Novostei, October 25, 2006, p. 5

© Translated by Ferghana.Ru