Voters in Tajikistan, the poorest state in the former Soviet Union, were set to hand Tajikistani President Emomali Rakhmon an easy victory for a fourth term yesterday.
In a tale all too familiar for elections throughout the Muslim, but vehemently secular, ex-Soviet states of Central Asia, the five candidates standing against Rakhmon are virtual unknowns with next to no chance of victory.
Rakhmon’s most significant rival, female rights lawyer Oinikhol Bobonazarova of the moderate opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, was unable to stand after narrowly failing to muster the amount of signatures required to register her candidacy.
Bobonazarova gathered only 202,000 of the 210,000 signatures required that equates to 5 percent of the electorate, a shortfall her party blamed on harassment from the local authorities.
Another main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, said it was also boycotting the elections because of “a lack of democracy and transparency.”
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which is monitoring the polls, said in its interim report that “there is no visible campaign by other candidates so far.”
Rakhmon won the last election in 2006 with nearly 80 percent of the ballot on reported turnout of about 90 percent, and many expect him to do just as well this time. Turnout was reportedly an impressive 68 percent by yesterday afternoon.
“I think the result is clear. We know who the president will be for the next seven years,” Abdurozik, 57, said after casting his ballot.
Taxi driver Rakhim, 43, expressed a similar sentiment.
“My only question is why they put up so many other candidates,” he said. “Everyone knows Rakhmon, but who are these other guys?”
After his initial wartime appointment by the Tajik Supreme Soviet in 1992, Rakhmon enjoyed easy re-elections in 1994, 1999 and 2006. With the presidential mandate now seven years long, he could potentially stay in power until 2020.