Tajikistan - Government

The Tajik government has been in a state of flux as it has implemented the comprehensive peace settlement. President Rakhmanov retains extensive power and his supporters from the Kulyab region remain dominant in the government, though some high-level posts have been given to the opposition.

According to a Rakhmanov-designed constitution approved by referendum in November 1994, the Oliy Majlis (legislature) enacts laws, interprets the constitution, determines basic directions of domestic and foreign policy, sets dates for referenda and elections, and approves key ministerial and other appointments. The legislature also approves the state budget, determines tax policy, ratifies treaties, and approves a state of war or emergency as decreed by the president. The constitution also calls for creation of a presidium to "organize work," to be elected by the legislators and to be headed by the speaker. Laws are required to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the total number of deputies, and a presidential veto may be overridden by the same margin. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The Tajik legislature in June 1999 rubber-stamped constitutional changes proposed by Rakhmanov calling for a seven year presidential term, a two-house Supreme Assembly (legislature), and the legalization of religious parties. A popular referendum approved the changes on 26 September 1999.

An electoral law was approved with input from the opposition on 10 December 1999. The law calls for the upper legislative chamber, the National Assembly (representing regional interests), to consist of 33 members, and the lower chamber, the Assembly of Representatives, 63 members.

Elections to the lower legislative chamber were set for 27 February 2000 (and a runoff on 12 March). In all, 191 candidates contested 41 single mandate seats and 107 candidates on six party lists competed for 22 seats. Turnout was reported by the CEC at 93.23% of 2.87 million voters. In the party list voting, Rakhmanov's People's Democratic Party (PDP) won fifteen seats, the Communist Party won five seats, and the Islamic Renaissance Party won two seats. Twenty-seven single mandate seats were filled in the 1st round, and twelve in the 2nd. Most winners of these seats are PDP members. Over 107 UN and OSCE observers monitored the race. They praised the "political pluralism" of the vote, since voters "were presented with a genuine and broad range of alternatives," but concluded that the electoral process must be improved "to meet the minimum democratic standards for equal, fair, free, secret, transparent, and accountable elections." They raised questions about freedom of the media, the independence of electoral commissions, the questionable de-registration of some candidates, apparently inflated turnout figures, and the transparency of vote tabulation. Thirty-three upper legislative chamber seats were filled on 23 March by indirect voting by local assemblies and the appointment of eight members by Rakhmanov. The UN Security Council on 21 March praised the legislative elections and work of the NRC, and withdrew UN observers in May 2000.

According to the US State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001, Tajikistan is an authoritarian regime that has established some nominally democratic institutions. Although the 2000 parliamentary elections improved citizens' right to change their government, this right remained restricted. Tajik government security forces in 2001 were responsible for some killings and beatings of detainees, and also engaged in threats, extortion, looting, and other abuse of civilians. Prison conditions were life threatening, and the judicial system was subject to political and paramilitary pressure. Opposition forces were responsible for serious abuses of civilians, including killing, kidnaping, threats, and extortion. The November 1999 presidential election was not viewed by the OSCE as "free and fair." In December 1999, Rakhmanov issued a decree pledging to "contribute in every way possible to the exercise of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right of access to the news media" as part of the comprehensive peace settlement.

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