Voters in Tajikistan have overwhelmingly endorsed changes to its constitution allowing the president, Emomali Rahmon, to run for an unlimited number of terms. In a statement, the central election commission said 94.5% of votes cast in Sunday’s referendum had backed the 40 constitutional changes, while only 3.3% were against. Turnout in the former Soviet central Asian country was 92%, or just over 4 million people, the CEC said. As well as lifting the term limit for Rahmon, the amendments also lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30, and ban the formation of parties based on religion.
Tajikistan held a referendum Sunday on changing the Constitution to allow its authoritarian president to run for office indefinitely, effectively allowing him to rule for life. The 63-year-old Emomali Rakhmon has ruled the former Soviet republic in Central Asia since 1992. During those 24 years, he has crushed or cowed all opposition to his rule and the referendum is expected to pass easily. One of the constitutional changes considered in the vote would lower the minimum age for presidents from 35 to 30 years. This would allow Rakhmon’s son, now 29, to run in the next presidential election in 2020. Reported turnout was high. Election officials said that 88 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots by 6 p.m. local time ( 1300 GMT ), two hours before polls closed. The referendum has been organized and held with only cursory international scrutiny. No election in Tajikistan has ever been deemed free and fair by the most thorough monitoring organization. In the months preceding the referendum, authorities in Tajikistan have systemically dismantled the few remaining remnants of dissent to Rakhmon’s rule.
Apparent voting irregularities have been documented as Tajikistan held parliamentary elections, including widespread cases where one person was casting ballots for an entire family, a lack of election monitors, and instances where volunteer poll workers advised people who to vote for. The Central Election Commission said more than 82 percent of the 4.3 million registered voters had cast a ballot, well over the 50 percent turnout needed to make the election valid. The ballot comes after a campaign that international monitors described as flawed.
Tajikistan’s veteran President Imomali Rakhmon looked set on Monday to dominate parliament for another five years after his party took a strong lead in an election Western observers said was stacked in his favor. The central election commission, announcing first results from Sunday’s general election, said on Monday his People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan had won 65.2 percent of the party list votes, which account for about one-third of the seats in the lower house of parliament. No information was available yet on results from direct mandate constituencies, which make up the rest of the 63-seat lower house, but observers expect Rakhmon loyalists to win most of those races as well.
The only question to ask about Tajikistan’s upcoming parliamentary elections is whether the authorities will allow any opposition parties to win seats in the rubber-stamp body. A victory for the president’s party is guaranteed. But, just in case, authorities are making it almost impossible for anyone else to run. Eight parties are fielding 288 candidates to contest 63 seats in parliament’s lower house on March 1. Tajikistan has never held an election judged free and fair by impartial observers. During the previous election, in 2010, President Emomali Rakhmon’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won 55 of the 63 seats. The only opposition party to enter parliament, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), won just two seats. The other seats went to members of the loyal opposition—parties that bestow on Tajikistan the trappings of democracy, but kowtow to the president.
Less than a month before elections to Tajikistan’s rubber-stamp parliament, members of the embattled opposition say the authoritarian-minded government is resorting to new tactics and old – sex tapes and arrests – to discredit them. A flurry of allegations about alleged sexual impropriety among members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) has surfaced on social media and state television in recent months. Meanwhile, another opposition group has seen several members arrested on what supporters call spurious charges. For longtime observers, the harassment in the run-up to the 1 March parliamentary elections is an unsurprising attempt to discredit opponents of President Imomali Rakhmon. In its most recent report on Tajikistan, Freedom House ranked the country’s electoral process a 6.75 out of 7, with 7 representing the farthest a country can be from democracy. The Central Asian state has never held an election judged free and fair by independent observers, though it regularly goes through the motions of holding polls. Eight parties, several of them loyal to the president, will field candidates in the elections next month.
Tajikistan’s president has won a fourth term in an election that has been criticized by Western observers and extends his more than 20-year rule in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation. The Central Election Commission said Thursday that Emomali Rakhmon won 83.6 percent of the vote, but monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, criticized the previous day’s vote. They say that state media had been dominated by coverage of Rakhmon’s campaign and that registration requirements were designed to limit competition. “While quiet and peaceful, this was an election without a real choice,” Gerdana Comic, Special Coordinator for the OSCE mission, said in a news conference in Dushanbe. The Tajik government long has drawn criticism for its crackdown on dissent and its tight grip on the media.
Polls have closed in Tajikistan’s presidential election amid reports of irregularities at some polling stations. The Central Election Commission, (CEC) said voter turnout in the election on November 6 was well above 80 percent. The CEC had earlier declared the election valid after the turnout figures passed the 50 percent threshold required to make the polls legitimate. Long-serving incumbent Emomali Rahmon is expected to win by a large margin. He ran against five relatively unknown candidates, who largely refrained from criticizing government policies during the state-sponsored presidential election campaign. The opposition Social Democrat Party boycotted the poll, saying the election campaign had been held amid “violations of the constitution” and with “state-organized falsifications.”