No candidate debates, empty campaign offices, aggressive advertisement of current President Rahmon, attacks on supporters and relatives of the real opposition- this is how the presidential campaign of 2020 in Tajikistan could be shortly characterized. One of the registered candidates declared that he would congratulate the winner with a bouquet of flowers.
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This Sunday, on October 11, the people of Tajikistan will elect their president for the next 7 years. The Central Commission on Elections and Referendum (CCER) has registered five candidates. The current President Emomali Rahmon, the head of the Agrarian Party Rustam Latifzoda, the head of the Communist Party Miroj Abdulloev, the head of the Socialist Party Abdukhalim Gafforzoda and the head of the Party of Economics Reform Rustam Rakhmatzoda are among the candidates.
On the night of October 9, the campaign period, which has started on September 15 will end. Saturday, October 10 is declared as a “day of silence”.
Thus, formally, the candidates had 25 days to present their programs. However, in the opinion of observers, during this period only the agitation of the team of the current President Emomali Rahmon, who has been the Head of Tajikistan since November 1992, was noticeable.
The candidate Emomali Rahmon absolutely dominated the air of the state TV channels.Civil servants and athletes were taking part in the widespread propagandistic campaign of Rahmon, which covered the whole country.
In September, the current president made several working trips to regions of Tajikistan in order to “get familiar with peoples’ lives”. However, experts consider it as part of the pre-election program of the current president. During these trips, Emomali Rahmon participated in the opening of several facilities, the significant part of which were created by the local businessmen. The press-service of the president reported the opening of fish ponds, hotels, substations, sewing factories, and even a private kindergarten.
Four of the official opponents of the current president practically did not engage in the pre-election agitation. The agitation was mainly limited to meeting with the electorate, which the CCER organized for them in some regions.
Based on the observation of journalists, in Dushanbe, only the pre-election posters of the head of the Agrarian Party could be seen. The election offices of the alternative candidates were barely functioning and some of them were closed at all during the election campaign.
None of the four candidates has dared to criticize the current President Emomali Rahmon.
On the contrary, the candidates were talking about the merits of the president, and Abdukhalim Gafforzoda even stated that “Emomali Rahmon has ripped the chest of the mountain and built there a tunnel”.
The pre-election programs and even the slogans of all of the registered candidates largely coincided. For instance, the Agrarian Party went to elections with the slogan “Worthy life for every citizen of Tajikistan”, at the same time the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDPT) had a slogan “For progress and worthy life of people”.
It is very remarkable, that the election campaign of the candidates passed frugally. The Communist Party of Tajikistan has announced that it spent about 40 thousand somoni (less than four thousand USD) on the pre-election agitation. In the leadership of the other parties, including the ruling PDPT, it was stated that they spent approximately the same amount.
Attack on the leader of the SDPT and the son of the deputy head of SDPT
During the election campaign Rahmatillo Zoirov, the head of the Social Democratic Party (SDPT), which boycotted the elections and named them illegal and anti-national, was attacked.
On his Facebook page, Rahmatillo Zoirov stated that on the evening of 22nd of September he was attacked by unknown individuals near his house in Dushanbe. The leader of SDPT was struck several times in the head and neck and then “with something made of iron in the face”.
After the incident Zoirov did not contact the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), stating that he does not trust the law enforcement agencies of Tajikistan.
“Three years ago on November 9, 2017 the MIA initiated a criminal case on the fact of an attack on me- that case was the same as what happened now. However still after three years, there is no even a hint about the response from the MIA” – reported Zoirov to analytical platform CABAR.asia.
However, the MIA of Tajikistan stated that Zoirov was injured because he fell into a ditch.
Also on the evening of October 4, the son of Mahmurod Odinaev, the deputy head of SDPT was attacked. According to Odinaev, his son, who is a private driver, was taking clients to “Shomi Shurob” restaurant of Gissar city.
Mahmurod Odinaev did not exclude that this incident could have political motives.
“This way the authorities want to intimidate me and other critics of the government so that we cease our political activity”- stated Odinaev.
However, the MIA rejected the political motive of this incident stating that the son of Odinaev “being under the influence of alcohol quarreled with other visitors of the restaurant after which he was beaten”.
According to political expert Abdumalik Kodirov, these elections can be judged by the pre-election campaigns of the opponents of the current President Emomali Rahmon.
He assumes that Faromuz Irgashev, 30 years old lawyer from Khorog town, was the only independent candidate, who by himself decided to participate in the campaign. However, the self-nominated candidate Irgashev could not register at CCER because he could not collect the necessary 260 thousand signatures.
“People in charge of Tajikistan’s security, believe that all those who go beyond the borders of the “electoral scenario” are a threat to stability. Therefore, they do not allow a “stranger” to enter the process. Because the event in Belarus strongly scared them. In Belarus also nobody expected that three women will change the whole situation in the country”- stated Kodirov.
CCER also limited the opportunities for independent mass media to cover the electoral events. This governmental agency refused the accreditation of “Asia-Plus” – one of the most popular independent mass media of the country. As the reason, it was written that “Asia-Plus” did not pass the re-registration.
According to experts, the authorities want the elections to pass without any incidents.
They predict that Emomali Rahmon will receive 80 percent of the votes, and his registered opponents will state that they do not have complaints.
One of these candidates Abdukhalim Gafforzoda has already stated “he is ready to congratulate the winner with a bouquet of flowers”.
These are the sixth elections that are held in Tajikistan since independence. Since 1994 Emomali Rahmon has always won them.