OSCE and CIS Observers Disagree on Presidential Election in Tajikistan

Central Commission for Elections and Referenda announced the results of November 6 presidential election in Tajikistan. Emomali Rakhmonov won a third seven-year term with 79.3 percent of the vote on a 91 percent turnout. Meanwhile, two main observation missions that monitored the vote – OSCE and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – disagree on the assessment of the election. OSCE and CIS regularly send out observation missions to monitor votes in the former Soviet Union. Following a vote, both groups render verdicts on whether the vote did or did not meet international standards. In most cases, these two groups disagree…

Central Commission for Elections and Referenda announced the results of November 6 presidential election in Tajikistan. Emomali Rakhmonov won a third seven-year term with 79.3 percent of the vote on a 91 percent turnout. Meanwhile, two main observation missions that monitored the vote – OSCE and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – disagree on the assessment of the election.

OSCE and CIS regularly send out observation missions to monitor votes in the former Soviet Union. Following a vote, both groups render verdicts on whether the vote did or did not meet international standards. In most cases, these two groups disagree with each other. Following the November 6 presidential election in Tajikistan, the two groups once again presented their incompatible judgments of the vote.

Kimmo Kiljunen, Head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Delegation and Special Coordinator of the OSCE short-term observer mission stressed that democratic practices were not fully tested in the November 6 presidential election.

“The lack of any serious campaign and credible alternatives undermined this election to a degree that it did not provide an adequate test of Tajikistan’s commitments for democratic elections,” Kimmo Kiljunen said.

Onno van der Wind, Head of the long-term Observation Mission deployed by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) announced that the election process fell short of democratic standards.

“While this election marks some improvement on the 1999 presidential election, the framework was not adequate for genuine democratic elections,” he said.

The OSCE/ODIHR’s statement of preliminary findings and conclusions on the election cited widespread family voting, multiple voting, and identical signatures on voter lists. Besides, OSCE suggested that “voting and counting procedures were often not followed”.

OSCE’s statement also stressed that the government’s control of the media and the lack of analytical reporting on the election “calls into question the ability of voters to make informed choices”.

OSCE’s findings repeat those of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). In its latest statement, CPJ suggested that “repression of opposition and independent news media has compromised the fairness of presidential election” in Tajikistan.

Meanwhile, OSCE’s counterparts from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) offered a much more positive view of the election. CIS’s short-term observation team in Tajikistan included some 240 observers, almost twice more than OSCE.

CIS Executive Secretary and the Head of CIS observers Vladimir Rushailo said in Dushanbe on November 7 that the poll was “free, open and transparent” and “on line with the election code”.

“Some irregularities and shortcomings in the election process were technical and not massive. They had no serious impact on voting and election results,” Rushailo said.

OSCE’s positive assessment of the vote was further supported by observers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Ukraine-based non-governmental organization “For Fair Elections”.

SCO observers simply repeated CIS’c statement on the election and suggested that it was held in line with Tajikistan’s national law and international commitments.

NGO “For Fair Election” stressed that the campaign and results of the vote provided a genuine picture of the choice of the population and of the balance of power in Tajikistan.

“On the election day and during the counting of votes, our Mission did not notice any violations that could affect the outcome of the election,” Sergey Mirzoev, head of the organization said.

Mark Baker from the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on April 12, 2005, suggested that CIS observers have rarely challenged election results in the former Soviet Union and their findings are usually “just the opposite” of what OSCE observers report. He accuses CIS observation teams of being a “propaganda tool for Moscow”. At the same time, he maintains that their counterparts from the OSCE “may occasionally be out of touch with the countries they monitor”.

In Tajikistan’s previous elections, the CIS’s conclusions also clashed with the views of OSCE’s electoral observers. After the February 2005 parliamentary election, deputy chairman of the Social-Democratic Party of Tajikistan Shokirjon Khakimov suggested that the observers from CIS were deployed in the country with the goal of building an image of legitimate election rather than actually monitoring the vote.

Meanwhile, my interviews with several people, who were in the CIS’s team of about 240 electoral observers on November 6, showed that CIS’s positive assessment of the election process does not necessarily reflect the findings of its observers.

A CIS observer who asked not to be named said their group had registered “numerous cases of ballot stuffing, multiple voting and voting without proper identification”. Besides, she told that in one of Dushanbe’s voting stations a drunken head of the precinct electoral committee violently pushed them out of the voting station after they had called his attention to multiple voting.

“We then called to the central office [of CIS observers’ team in Dushanbe] and reported on the incident,” she said.” Two persons arrived to the voting station afterwards. They had a short conversation with the head of the precinct electoral committee and then suggested that we continue with other voting stations. We were not even offered apologies. And this incident was not even mentioned by Rushailo”.

Tajikistan’s political parties also have different opinions on the fairness of the vote. Immediately after the results of the election were announced, Emomali Rakhmonov’s contenders endorsed the outcome of the vote. Meanwhile, Democratic Party and Social-Democratic Party that boycotted the election announced its results “illegitimate”. The country’s strongest opposition party, the Islamic Revival Party, that also chose not to field a candidate in the election refrained from commenting on its outcome.

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    Душанбе. 9 ноября. «Азия-Плюс» – Четыре представителя Организации по безопасности и сотрудничеству в Европе (ОБСЕ) высланы из России в Чехию за нарушение визового режима. Об этом передают ряд российских СМИ со ссылкой на второго секретаря представительства МИД в Екатеринбурге Сергея Иванова… more

  • [...] Following the article of Alexander Sadykov about the disagreement of OSCE and CIS observers on presidential election in Tajikistan. Today Asia plus reported that four representatives of OSCE were deported from Moscow to Prague for violation of visa regulations. In the morning the representatives of OSCE were coming from Dushanbe to Yekateriburg. After the elections they wanted to go to Helsinki through Yekaterinburg and Moscow. They were detained by the representatives of frontier service in the airport of “Koltsovo”. [...]

  • [...] Tajikistan voted Alexander and Vadim on neweurasia continue to provide excellent coverage of Tajikistan’s elections both in Russian and in English. Now that the elections are over, the observers are busy writing up their findings. It is only a small surprise that the CIS observer team has put their thumbs up, whereas the OSCE is not happy (and is experiencing visa problems on top). [...]

  • So what? OSCE always says our elections are not good enough. But they never do anything to change the situation or punish the government of Tajikistan. Then what are they good for?

  • Erkin,

    This is a fair question. However, international observers are there not to PUNISH the government or to CHANGE the situation. Their task is more to HELP change the situation.

    You can view my and Gura’s dispute on this issue in the comment to this.

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