DUSHANBE, November 7 (RIA Novosti) – Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon was declared the landslide winner Thursday of an election that international observers say was marred by fraud and a total lack of genuine competition.
Rakhmon, a 61-year old former collective farm director, secured a fourth term as president of the impoverished Central Asian nation with 83.6 percent of Wednesday’s vote, said election committee chief Shermukhammad Shokhiyen.
None of the other five candidates in Wednesday’s race, whose campaigns have been all but invisible, received more than five percent of the vote.
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that campaigning for the election was largely indiscernible and generated limited public interest.
“The campaign was formalistic and devoid of the political debate that is essential to a competitive campaign environment in which voters are provided with a genuine choice,” the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said in its report.
Opposition parties had nominated rights defender Oynikhol Bobonazarova as their candidate, but they were unable to register her for the ballot.
The parties, the Islamic Revival Party and the Social Democratic Party, said Bobonazarova was intentionally sidelined and boycotted the election.
The election commission said around 90 percent of the four million eligible voters cast their ballot, but that figure seemed to be questioned by international observers.
ODIHR monitors said they noted numerous instances of proxy voting, group voting, and indications of ballot box stuffing.
The OSCE has never deemed an election in Tajikistan to be free and fair.
Rakhmon, who has been in power since 1992, did not run an election campaign, relying instead on extensive visits across the landlocked, largely Muslim country, during which he 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.
Rakhmon has promised to slash poverty in Tajikistan, where 47 percent of the population is classified as poor. With a new seven year term, he has pledged to reduce that figure 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.
About 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 observer report, Adds details.