In the wake of the mayor of Tajikistan’s capital getting sidelined, his allies are now systematically being cleared out of jobs in and near the government.
On February 13, the executive committee of President Emomali Rahmon’s People’s Democratic Party assembled and decided to remove six leading party apparatchiks.
The changes were effected at Rahmon’s behest.
Tajikistan-focused news website Akhbor cited an unnamed source in the party as saying the process is intended to rid the city hall of ex-mayor Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev’s cronies. New appointees will reportedly instead be the cronies of the new mayor, who also happens to be son of President Rahmon — Rustam Emomali. (Tajik sons take the first name of their father as a second name).
The authorities are trying to cast Emomali’s ascendancy to the mayor’s job as a much-needed injection of energy. Rahmon in December declared 2017 the year of youth and in that spirit gave his 29-year old scion a job for which he has little obvious background.
Acting quickly, Emomali dumped the sitting mayoral press secretary and the head of the city television station, Poytakht. Then on January 16, he fired the head of Dushanbe’s public records department, Saidhomid Mahmudov, who is Ubaidulloev’s cousin.
On February 7, less than a month after losing his mayoral post, Ubaidulloev resigned his seat on the Dushanbe city council, as did his ex-city hall chief of staff, Firuz Ulmasov.
While the iron is hot, President Rahmon has convened a meeting on February 15 with the city’s community representatives to discuss what ails Dushanbe. Any bad feedback may prove a useful opportunity to pile more criticism onto Ubaidulloev, who is also having a corruption probe dangled over him.
Ubaidulloev’s fall from grace is unfolding with remarkable speed. The once-untouchable politician rose to power alongside Rahmon and had reached the position of deputy prime minister by 1992. He was actively involved in negotiations with the armed opposition throughout the civil war, which came to a close in 1997. His appointment as mayor went through a particularly convoluted path. In February 1996, swathes of the country had come under the control of Makhmud Khudoiberdiyev, a freelance warlord and proxy for Uzbekistan. In the course of negotiations with officials in Dushanbe, Khudoiberdiyev made a series of demands before agreeing to reduce hostilities, including the dismissal of Ubaidulloev as deputy prime minister. Rahmon duly complied, but shortly thereafter named Ubaidulloev mayor of Dushanbe.
Ubaidulloev still retains one key post — speaker of the upper house of parliament. In theory, that would leave him in a position to succeed as president in the event of Rahmon falling prey to a sudden incapacitating condition or death.
But that too is likely to change imminently.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing on February 16 to hear General Prosecutor Yusuf Rahmon deliver a report on his activities. Some think it is possible Ubaidulloev may be compelled to seize on this opportunity to file his resignation. At this stage, his departure is a matter of when not if.
All indications point to Emomali eventually being named chairman of the Senate, as a precursor to him being anointed as successor to his father, although there is a trifling hurdle in his way for now. According to the constitution, Senate members must have reached the age of 30 — a milestone Emomali will pass only on December 19.
As a result, Emomali will either be required to wait — if indeed the Senate job is being kept on hold for him — or this little rule may be waived.