Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 208

Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov has won reelection to a seven-year term of office. The official returns, issued within hours of the November 6 balloting, claimed an overall voter turnout of 97 percent and credited Rahmonov with 96 percent of the votes cast. Economics and Foreign Trade Minister Dovlat Usmon, candidate of the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) and of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), was officially credited with 2 percent. Considering the country’s deep fragmentation along regional, political and clan lines, the breakdown of communications and sheer physical isolation of parts of the populace, the Central Electoral Commission’s (CEC) figures seem not exaggerated but simply fabricated, so as to flatter and boost the incumbent president. Rahmonov’s own regional and clan base is a narrow one. Apart from that base in Kulob and his own People’s Democratic Party, Rahmonov enjoyed the support of the Tajik Communist Party and of Russia, and the benevolent neutrality of Iran.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international bodies had from the outset declined to monitor the election, thereby in effect pronouncing it fatally flawed. On the other hand, Russian staff of the St. Petersburg-based CIS Interparliamentary Assembly monitored the balloting in Dushanbe and vicinity and certified the election as free and fair. The Russian ambassador in Dushanbe, Yevgeny Belov, doubling as an election observer, also blessed the exercise. Even if international observers were absent, Tajik representatives of “trade unions and youth organizations” were on hand to monitor the voting, Belov remarked. Russia’s Foreign Ministry had, before the day of balloting, declared itself satisfied with a “pluralistic” election. The Russian government’s attitude in this case deserves the notice of those who still suggest casting Russia as a democracy exporter to Belarus.

Usmon figured on the ballot in spite of his, the IRP’s and UTO’s repeatedly announced decision to boycott the election because the authorities had not allowed them to campaign (see the Monitor, October 25, November 5). The CEC, ignoring those announcements, tried to drag the kicking and screaming candidate into the race. The authorities were eager to create the appearance of a two-man race, but not skilled enough to provide the minimal conditions or at least to adjust the final returns in a manner consistent with that appearance. Usmon and the other two thwarted candidates–Sulton Kuvvatov of the Democratic Party and Saifiddin Turaev of the Justice Party–estimated after the election that 20 to 30 percent of the total electorate may have turned out for the voting. This estimate has the ring of plausibility if only because almost 40 percent of Tajikistan’s total population live in the Leninabad Region, where alienation from the central government runs high and the IRP and UTO are not popular.

Hours before the opening of the polls, Rahmonov and UTO Chairman Saidabdullo Nuri reached a deal which momentarily defused a month-long confrontation. Nuri promised on behalf of the entire opposition to recognize the results of the vote as valid and to lift the boycott, in the limited sense that opposition supporters would cast their votes, though not in the sense of going along with the pro forma candidacy of Usmonov. In a twelfth-hour, amply televised move, Nuri himself cast his ballot at a polling station in central Dushanbe. Nuri agreed, furthermore, that the UTO would resume its participation in the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), the government-opposition joint decision-making and conflict-resolving mechanism.

Rahmonov in turn promised to effect the overdue release of ninety-three imprisoned UTO supporters, adequately feed and clothe the former UTO fighters who have been absorbed into government forces, and create fairer conditions for the legislative elections which are due next February. Those conditions–as stipulated in the Rahmonov-Nuri protocol–include lifting restrictions on the opposition’s electoral campaign, equitable access to the media, drafting a new electoral law, international monitoring of the elections, replacement of discredited members of the CEC and local electoral commissions, and an increase in UTO’s present representation quota of 25 percent in the CEC as well as a guaranteed quota of 20 percent in the local commissions. These last conditions in themselves suggest that Rahmonov’s apparatus retains its ability to shape the final results of the legislative election as well, if perhaps less crudely than was done in the presidential election (Itar-Tass, Hovar, Asia-Plus, Dushanbe Radio, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Mashhad), AP, Reuters, November 6-8; see the Monitor, September 29, October 13, 19 and the Fortnight in Review, May 21).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions