Tajikistan: Parliamentary elections
|Publication Date||25 February 2010|
|Cite as||EurasiaNet, Tajikistan: Parliamentary elections, 25 February 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b966e743.html [accessed 24 July 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Tajikistan's upcoming parliamentary elections on February 28 appear to have little chance of producing a surprise outcome. The governing People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT) is widely expected to retain a dominating legislative majority, as the campaign has been marked by public skepticism and lackluster opposition activity.
In a report released on February 22, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) election observation mission described the election campaign as "low-key," while expressing "concerns about the transparency and accountability" of the Central Elections Commission. Tajikistan has never held and election classified as free and fair by the OSCE.
The report also noted "allegations of police interference and use of state resources by the ruling party for campaign purposes."
A total of 221 candidates representing the country's eight registered parties are battling for 63 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives (Majlisi Namoyandagon). Twenty-two seats will be determined on the basis of shares that political parties receive in the vote. Currently, the PDPT and its non-partisan supporters hold 57 of the 63 seats. Of the six remaining seats, the Communist Party holds four and the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) two.
Critics say the PDPT, a chief pillar of support for President Imomali Rahmon's administration, enjoys unfair political advantages, including preferential coverage from state-controlled media outlets. Independent media outlets, meanwhile, have come under pressure from a series of high profile recent libel cases that press watchdogs say are politically motivated.
"The main difference between previous [election cycles] and the ongoing election campaign is that this one does not contain any intrigue," Parviz Mullojanov, an independent political expert in Dushanbe, told EurasiaNet. "Previously, both the electorate and the political parties [entertained] an illusion – the people thought that the elections might change something in their lives and the parties hoped to get sufficient numbers of seats in the parliament. The Islamic Renaissance Party, for example, hoped to gain significant representation in the [last election] and failed; and Social Democrats did not even enter parliament" in past contests.
"Today, it is quite clear that the parliament will remain single-party, and the presence of other parties will be regulated by administrative interventions," Mullojanov continued. "There's no doubt that the results of the elections will have no serious impact on future developments in the country."
Despite its dominating campaign position, PDPT leaders say there is no room for complacency. Party leaders are additionally pointing to steps that they say will lead to Tajikistan's cleanest election to date. The party's parliamentary faction leader, Jumaboy Sanginov, told the Asia Plus weekly newspaper on February 5 that "the process of nominating candidates, [and] the quantitative and qualitative composition of representatives, offer evidence of the transparency in the election processes."
"In order to prevent the misuse of administrative funds and resources, President Rahmon relieved all heads of city and district administrations who are running for [parliament] of their [executive] posts," Sanginov added.
Given past irregularities, many potential voters remain skeptical that change in Tajikistan can be brought about via the ballot box, said a commentary published recently in the privately owned Nigoh weekly. "This year's election atmosphere is even far more stagnant than in the past elections," the commentary noted.
A survey released last month by the International Foundation for Elections Systems (IFES), a non-governmental organization, showed that an overwhelming majority of Tajiks could not differentiate between party platforms. Party positions are important in a contest where a third of seats are apportioned on the basis of party representation in poll results, rather than individual campaigns.
Though voters showed strong awareness of the existence of various political parties, 70 percent claimed to be unaware of any party platform. Of the respondents who affirmed awareness of platforms, 65 percent claimed to have knowledge of the PDPT's program, while only 16 percent and 10 percent were aware of the positions of the IRPT and Communist Party respectively.
Memories of the country's civil war from 1992-1997, and the fear of renewed conflict are believed to undermine efforts by opposition parties to raise their profiles, said another local political expert who wished to remain anonymous.
"There are no conditions for any real political opposition in Tajikistan," he said. "The civil war ended long ago, but the memories are fresh and very bitter. Despite the government's populist initiatives ? people do not protest. They are not politicized because they do not see any constructive force that might change something in their lives without unleashing a new bloody conflict."
Editor's Note: Konstantin Parshin is a freelance journalist based in Dushanbe.