DUSHANBE, November 6 (RIA Novosti) – Voters in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation of Tajikistan voted Wednesday in a presidential election guaranteed to secure the authoritarian incumbent a fourth term in power.
Emomali Rakhmon, a 61-year old former collective farm director, faced competition only from five nominal rival candidates, whose campaigns have been all but invisible.
The Central Election Committee said that 68 percent of the country's four million eligible voters had cast their ballot by 2 p.m. local time. Preliminary results are expected Thursday.
Opposition parties had nominated rights defender Oynikhol Bobonazarova as their candidate, but they were unable to present the number of signatures needed to register her.
The parties, the Islamic Revival Party and the Social Democratic Party, said Bobonazarova had been intentionally sidelined and have said they are boycotting the election.
Rakhmon has in effect not run an election campaign and has refrained from urging Tajik citizens to vote for him. But he has over the last two months toured many parts of the country on working visits, during which he has opened new schools and hospitals.
Coverage of the president in the tightly controlled state media is typically adulatory and has led political analysts to describe an emergent cult of personality.
Typically, during these visits, Rakhmon’s path is lined by hundreds of schoolchildren and university students singing songs and reading poems in which he is frequently described as the “just Shah” and “king of kings.”
Rakhmon has promised to reduce the proportion of poor people in Tajikistan by 2015 to 30 percent, from the current 47 percent. By the end of his seven-year term, he says he will bring that figure down further to 20 percent and increase real incomes fourfold.
Tajikistan, a country of 8 million people on Afghanistan’s northern border, has struggled to recover from the fallout of a devastating civil war in the 1990s and remains hobbled by rampant corruption and crumbling infrastructure.
Around half the country’s economy is accounted for by money sent back home by migrant laborers, the bulk of whom live and work in Russia.
Updates with turnout figures.