Wed, Nov 08, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Rakhmonov easily retains presidency in Tajik elections

AP , DUSHANBE

President Emomali Rakhmonov won re-election to a new, seven-year term in Tajikistan according to preliminary results that gave him nearly 80 percent of the vote, elections officials said yesterday.

Rakhmonov, 54, had been widely expected to win amid widespread concerns over the fairness of the vote in the former Soviet republic in Central Asia.

Central Elections Commission Chairman Boltoiu Merzoali said Rakhmonov had 79.3 percent of the vote, based on a count of 91 percent of nearly 3.1 million ballots cast. Speaking on national TV, he said the next closest candidate in the polling on Monday had won only 6.2 percent of the vote.

Under a series of controversial changes to the Constitution, Rakhmonov could potentially serve in office until 2020.

None of the votes held by Tajikistan since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union have been deemed free or fair by international standards.

The pre-election campaign was marked by the jailing of several potential would-be challengers, media intimidated by closures and harassment and the refusal by the three main opposition parties to participate or field candidates. That included the Islamic Renaissance Party, Central Asia's only legal Islamic political party.

Rakhmonov's four challengers were all relative unknowns; nearly all voters interviewed in the days prior to and on election day said they knew virtually nothing about the other candidates.

Most voters also voiced strong support for Rakhmonov, praising him for bringing stability to the mountainous Muslim nation bordering Afghanistan.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which dispatched dozens of monitors to oversee the process, noted in a pre-election report that there was neither any real competition nor a real political alternative to Rakhmonov.

The OSCE was to release a preliminary report on the election later yesterday.

The election was the second presidential ballot since a civil war pitting Islamic forces against the Moscow-backed government that killed more than 30,000 people and displaced nearly 1 million.

Rakhmonov on Monday rebuffed concerns that the vote would not be transparent or democratic.

He said it was wrong for Western countries to try to impose democracy.

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