Presidential elections in Tajikistan will be held on October 11 this year. However, experts believe that their outcome is predetermined and the current President will retain his post.
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What Are the Rules?
The President of the Republic of Tajikistan is elected for seven-year term. Basic requirements for a candidate:
- to be at least 30 years old;
- to speak state (Tajik) language;
- to live in Tajikistan at least for the last 10 years at the time of nomination.
One person cannot be a President for more than two terms. However, since 2016, this rule does not apply to the current President of the republic Emomali Rahmon, thanks to the amendments to the Constitution of Tajikistan.
To register as a Presidential candidate at the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda, the applicant must submit the signatures of 5% (260 thousand) of the total number of voters.
The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of Tajikistan registered four candidates in addition to the incumbent President Emomali Rahmon.
Emomali Rahmon, the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan, current President of the country, 67 years old
The frontrunner of the upcoming Presidential elections, the incumbent head of the republic Emomali Rahmon is running for a fifth term. As in 2013, he was nominated by the ruling People’s Democratic Party, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and the Youth Union of Tajikistan.
This became a traditional tool for the demonstration of support for the President and his popularity among the people. Moreover, these organizations have great capacity needed for Rahmon’s election campaign.
In his election program, he uses the indicators of the successful socio-economic development of Tajikistan during the previous years.
Emomali Rahmon is the only candidate who discusses in his program the infrastructure development and specific projects: Rogun HPP, CASA-1000 and others. Rahmon demonstrates that during his Presidency, all key for Tajikistan projects were launched and he intends to complete them.
Rustam Latifzoda, the Chairman of the Agrarian Party since 2014, 60 years old
This is the first election for Latifzoda. The Agrarian Party regularly nominates its candidates; the election program is usually formulated in accordance with the Party’s activities. In the last elections in 2013, the Agrarian Party was represented by the academician of agriculture Tolibbek Bukhoriev, who proposed to establish an agricultural infrastructure and create enterprises for processing agricultural products. Thus, Bukhoriev hoped to reduce the outflow of labour force from Tajikistan to Russia.
Rustam Latifzoda in his election program proposes ideas that are more ambitious. For example, he proposes to resolve the border conflicts via resettlement, to join the Customs Union and to legalize polygamy.
It should be noted that currently, the polygamy is illegal in Tajikistan.
Abduhalim Gafforov, the Socialist Party, 68 years old
For Gafforov, this will be the third attempt to run for the President. The Socialist Party, which he represents, forms the ‘moderate left’ wing alone. In the last election, Gafforov promised to distribute the resources in the country, to confiscate foreign bank accounts, to ease banking bureaucracy, to reform the tax system, and to provide social protection for children, mothers and public sector workers. In 2020, his election program is not much different and, in general, has a social orientation. Particular attention is drawn to the point of Gafforov’s program, where he promises to build a metro in Dushanbe.
Rustam Rahmatzoda, the Party of Economic Reforms, 57 years old
Rustam Rahmatzoda proposes to change the entire sphere of the economic legislation: tax system and administration, banking legislation. He also proposes to diversify migration flows, to switch to organized labour force export.
Rahmatzoda is the only candidate who mentions the negative impact of climate change on agriculture, a key sector of the country’s economy.
Miroj Abdulloev, the Leader of the Communist Party, 72 years old
Miroj Abdulloev in his election program focuses on state control over the economy and on strengthening the national unity. Unlike other “alternative” candidates, Abdulloev does not even try to attract any attention to himself.
Elections Without Intrigue
According to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the 2020 Parliamentary elections in Tajikistan were held in a tightly controlled environment without pluralistic political debate, and when voters had no real political alternatives to choose from.
Therefore, the observers believe that the incumbent President Emomali Rahmon will win in October 2020.
Why Did Rustam Emomali Not Participate in the Elections?
The only intrigue of the 2020 Presidential elections was the possible nomination of the incumbent President’s son Rustam Emomali as a candidate for the highest office in the country. These expectations were caused by the fact that the country’s Constitution was amended in 2016, which allowed 32-year-old Rustam Emomali to run for the President. However, these predictions were disproved.
It is possible that the President Rahmon decided that Rustam Emomali was not yet ready to take the position, especially given the problems that the country cannot cope with. They are the lack of funds for the Rogun HPP construction, budget deficit and border conflicts with neighboring Kyrgyzstan. The coronavirus pandemic has only aggravated the problems. It is also possible that Tajikistan’s partners in the CIS, mainly, Moscow, did not approve this transit of power.
In this April, Rustam Emomali became the speaker of the Majlisi Milli, the upper chamber of the Parliament. According to the Constitution of Tajikistan (Article 71), this position is the second most important. The head of Majlisi Milli acts as President in case of his death, resignation or incapacity.
Who Are Rahmon’s Opponents?
None of the President’s registered opponents has ever publicly criticized him. Therefore, the observers believe that all these Rahmon’s opponents are controlled and were appointed by the authorities to imitate the political competition in the elections.
In 2013, each candidate had to collect 210,000 signatures for registration (5% of the total number of voters). As a result, in those elections, five competitors of Emomali Rahmon from the Communist Party, Agrarian Party, the Party of Economic Reforms, Socialist Party and Democratic Party received about 16% of the vote on Election Day. The number of their voters did not reach 200 thousand, and of some of them, even 100 thousand.
Thus, it turns out that those who signed for their nomination changed their minds on Election Day and voted for the incumbent President. Despite this, all the candidates agreed with the election results and did not try to dispute them.
It can be assumed that the situation will repeat during these elections.
Infographics on 2013 ElectionsBoycott of the Elections
Rahmatillo Zoirov, the Leader of the Social Democratic Party, 63 years old
The Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, the only real opposition party in the country according to experts, declared a boycott of the elections. In 2013, the Party together with the Islamic Renaissance Party still legal then, also boycotted the elections. This happened after the candidate of these two parties Oynihol Bobonazarova did not manage to collect the required number of signatures, and was not registered at the country’s Central Commission for Elections. This time, the social democrats decided not to nominate their candidates at all.
The leader of the Party Rahmatillo Zoirov emphasize in his addresses that the elections will be held ahead of schedule (the elections were planned to be held in November originally), and it is impossible to collect 250 thousand signatures in such a period.
He also disagrees with the fact that election commissions at all levels are formed at the expense of the executive authorities and the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
Irgashev’s Nomination As the Only Surprise of the Electoral Campaign
Faromuz Irgashev, 30, a lawyer from GBAO, in fact, became the first self-nominated candidate in the Presidential elections in Tajikistan during the past twenty years.
Irgashev is a member of the Majlis of GBAO since 2015 and is known for his human rights activities.
Irgashev’s electoral program was aimed at combating corruption in state structures, ensuring the legal principles and respect for human rights, and concerned almost all spheres of the country’s administration. Irgashev’s self-nomination caused an ambiguous reaction: many openly supported his initiative, especially in GBAO. Pro-government agencies criticized this decision. Critics spoke of Irgashev’s lack of experience and accused him of ignoring the legal requirements.
On September 14, Irgashev announced that he refused to participate in the elections because he did not manage to collect the necessary 260 thousand signatures.
According to the candidate, he intends to address the Constitutional Court of the country with a demand to revise the electoral legislation in order to simplify it for the independent candidates.
Why Was Usmonzoda Denied Registration?
Saidjafar Usmonzoda, the Democratic Party, 60 years old
In this May, the candidate from the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, member of the Majlisi Namoyandagon (the lower chamber of the country’s Parliament), criticized the republican headquarters for countering the spread of coronavirus. Usmonzoda called for a full-scale quarantine in the country and the transfer of control over the situation to the law enforcement agencies. Such open criticism from an incumbent Member of Parliament was unprecedented in Tajikistan.
On September 15, the Central Commission for Elections refused to register Usmonzoda. The official explanation was the lack of the required number of signatures.
The experts do not classify the current Democratic Party as a real opposition. However, they believe that the denial in registration of the Democratic Party’s leader may be related to Usmonzoda’s criticism.
What Is the International Reaction to the Elections in Tajikistan?
The Presidential elections in Tajikistan were never held without international observers. Currently, the observers from the Interparliamentary Assembly CIS Council Secretariat already began their work. In 2013, the CIS Observer Mission recognized the Presidential elections in full compliance with the norms of transparency and democracy. Now, the observers from post-Soviet countries most likely will not speak about violations after the voting results as well.
Of the international observers, the key representatives are the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE body. Now, it is expected that the ODIHR will not send a big observation mission and will be limited to only a small team for the elections assessment. A similar decision was made for the Parliamentary elections in this March. Then, the decision was made following the results of the report, which indicated that the observation missions do not contribute to a change in the situation with the elections in Tajikistan and that all recommendations and calls for transparency are ignored by the country’s authorities. The same trend can be observed today. At the same time, Dushanbe sends an official invitation for OSCE observers each time, since for Tajikistan, the presence of international observers is a necessary attribute for complying with the image of a democratic country.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project