The presidential election, scheduled for November 6, has produced a split between incumbent President Imomali Rahmonov and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), and a parallel split within the UTO. Last week, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) disqualified all three presidential candidates from the opposition after they had to failed to gather the 145,000 voter signatures required for official registration of a presidential candidate. The candidates demonstrated, however, that local authorities had blocked their signature-collecting campaigns.
The presidential camp largely controls the CEC, with the opposition holding only 25 percent of its seats. In the local bodies of power, the ratio is just as lopsided, because the opposition has in most places not been allocated its 30 percent quota of the posts, to which it is entitled under the 1997 and 1998 political agreements with the government. In response to this turn of events, the opposition parties announced a boycott of the presidential election and called for international intercession to ensure the conditions for a fair balloting. Dovlat Usmonov, the nominee of the Islamic Rebirth Party and the UTO, is the strongest among the three thwarted candidates of the opposition.
On October 15, the UTO made several demands. First, the replacement of the incumbent CEC, which has proven partisan. Second, balanced representation on the CEC of all candidates. Third, explicit instructions to be issued to local authorities to permit the collection of signatures for opposition candidates. And, fourth, a special session of parliament to approve the postponement of the election to allow time for a fair campaign, with fair access of the opposition to the mass media. On October 18, the UTO quit the National Reconciliation Commission–a joint government-opposition body mandated to thrash out disagreements. UTO’s chairman Saidabdullo Nuri was the moving force behind those decisions.
On October 16 and 18, however, the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) and the UTO moved very close to a split. Akbar Turajonzoda, the UTO’s first vice-chairman and the party’s co-chairman, declared that he and other leaders had disagreed with those decisions and had been overruled or not consulted. In protest, Turajonzoda suspended his activities in that dual capacity. The IRP responded by expelling Turajonzoda for contradicting the party’s policy. Among the prominent UTO leaders, Mahmadruzi Iskandarov and Habib Sanginov support Turajonzoda against Nuri. The trio–and their supporters–take the position that the UTO had a deal to not stand in the way of Rahmonov’s reelection, and that any serious attempts to oppose him are both futile and destabilizing.
The political crisis is being accompanied by an unraveling of public order in both the capital and the provinces, most of which lie beyond government control. In two separate incidents on October 16 in Dushanbe, a lieutenant colonel of Russia’s border troops and a Tajik army colonel who held a senior post in the Defense Ministry were assassinated–shot in the back outside their homes, by groups of gunmen who then fled. And in a third, as yet unexplained incident in downtown Dushanbe, an army unit and a police unit engaged in a firefight which injured six of the combatants (Itar-Tass, Radio Dushanbe, Reuters, October 15-18; see the Monitor, September 28, October 13).
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