Tajik President Emomali Rahmon yesterday was re-elected with more than 90 percent of the vote following a presidential election in which he faced only token opposition.
The win would allow the 68-year-old to pass three decades in power and overtake former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev as the former Soviet Union’s longest-ruling leader.
The Central Electoral Commission said that 90.9 percent of voters in Sunday’s poll had cast their ballot for Rahmon, who would secure a fresh seven-year term.
Photo: AFP / Press Service of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan / Handout
Turnout was more than 85 percent, the commission said.
While disputed elections in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and fellow former Soviet republic Belarus have triggered massive upheaval, similar developments appear unlikely in Tajikistan, but Rahmon faces unprecedented challenges after the nation’s weak economy has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 1 million Tajiks are believed to work abroad, mostly in Russia.
Alex Kokcharov, a country risk research analyst at IHS Markit in London, said that remittances sent back to Tajikistan had dropped by 15 to 25 percent year-on-year in the first half.
If a large number of Tajiks “would come back to Tajikistan from Russia where many have lost jobs in this year’s crisis, it will increase domestic instability — both politically and economically,” said Kokcharov, whose company predicts a 6.5 percent contraction of the economy this year.
The bleak economic outlook also raises questions about how the government would be able to service external debt, equating to more than one-third of GDP.
Rahmon was first elected president in 1994, after the position was re-established, and re-elected in 1999, 2006 and 2013. None of those votes were endorsed by international monitors.
Constitutional changes passed in 2016 allowed the “Founder Of Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation,” as Rahmon is officially known, to run for office an unlimited number of times.
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