No one in Dushanbe doubted who would win Tajikistan’s presidential election on November 6; most did not expect a free and fair vote. But President Imomali Rahmon’s administration tried to put on a good show.
Anyone following Tajikistan’s presidential election cycle knows that Imomali Rahmon is a cinch to win another seven-year term on November 6. But the lack of genuine electoral options is a source of frustration for an important constituency – the million-strong community of Tajik labor migrants in Russia.
That's the question a member of the Tajik president's campaign team attempted to answer in a recent newspaper article. But in laying out his case, it appears the writer borrowed words from other well-known political figures in the region.
The French writer and philosopher Albert Camus reportedly once said, “Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.” Camus obviously never saw how the Beautiful Game is played in Tajikistan.
Authorities in Tajikistan have worked overtime in recent years to discredit the country’s small political opposition, and keep public attention away from politics. But the opposition coalition’s unexpected nomination of prominent human rights advocate Oynihol Bobonazarova has, if nothing else, succeeded in generating buzz during the early days of the presidential election campaign.
The concept of term limits seems like a contradiction in terms when it comes to Tajikistan. The Central Asian state’s constitution specifies that the president can serve only two consecutive terms. Yet the incumbent, Imomali Rahmon, has been in office since 1994, and is widely expected to secure another seven-year term when a presidential vote is held in November.
Tajikistan is not a place that sees a lot of protests these days. So it is a cause for wonder when demonstrators spontaneously gather outside the US Embassy and United Nations offices in Dushanbe to air complaints that mirror authorities’ stated views – without facing any serious challenge from law enforcement authorities.
Early on March 15, a 58-year-old man put on his tracksuit and left home in Qurghonteppa, a 90-minute drive south of Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital. Morning exercise was a regular part of his routine, says Amnesty International. But on this morning the man, a prominent critic of President Imomali Rakhmon, did not return.
Longtime residents of Dushanbe say Tajikistan’s capital is changing, and they’re not talking about the destruction of city parks to make space for empty new skyscrapers. The use of the Russian language, once a unifier in multi-ethnic Tajik cities, is rapidly fading.