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Free and Fair, No Joke

Written by on Wednesday, 27 September 2006
Politics and Society, Tajikistan

Tajikistan is moving ahead towards what can be the country’s first genuinely free and fair presidential election. For Emomali Rakhmonov, who on September 23 was unanimously nominated by the ruling People’s Democratic Party to seek another term in the office, the election scheduled for November 6 is a mere formality.

Tajikistan is no different from its neighbors in Central Asia in terms of rich history of falsified elections. Fraud and manipulation have been general features of all elections held in the country since independence. One important characteristic however distinguishes Tajikistan’s presidential elections: their outcome has never been falsified; only the numbers were manipulated. It was done mainly due to the region’s inviolable tradition of “granting” no less than 90 percent of the vote to the leader, with Turkmenistan’s Sapharmurat Niyazov setting the record of 99 percent.

President Rakhmonov, in office since 1994 and now having a chance to stay for at least seven other years after amending the constitution, has never had much problems with winning the election. The problem was the percentage of votes that had to be no less than what his neighbors in the region were getting. This is where election manipulation came from: the winner got everything, including the votes of his opponents.

This year’s elections however will serve as a benchmark in Tajikistan’s modern history as the first presidential elections free of any manipulation. The reason for that is that the incumbent president has no opponents except on paper.

Tajikistan’s leading political parties have silently allowed Rakhmonov to stay in the office without any struggle at all. Islamic Revival Party, Democratic and Social-Democratic parties announced this week that they will not participate in the upcoming presidential election.

With the Communist Party nominating perhaps the most unfamiliar to the voters candidate, Socialist party divided by two rival factions and the two youngest parties nominating their unknown leaders, the November election will be a mere formality.

While international election watchdogs prepare to deploy their observers in Tajikistan, Emomali Rakhmonov has a chance to be re-elected through the procedure of genuinely free and fair election and get his no less than 90 percent of the vote in a fair play.

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