Tajikistan - Leadership

Rakhmonov is described by the Russian independent media and others as a tough and skillful politician who has managed to retain power despite years of political opposition, a difficult peace process, internal separatism and ethnic dissidence, economic collapse, and fragile political relations between his Kulyabi regional supporters and other regional interests, particularly the previously dominant Khojent clan.

Moving to consolidate his hold on political power, Rakhmonov decided to hold presidential elections and a referendum on a new Constitution in November 1994. Tajikistan was the last of the Central Asian states to replace its Communist-era Constitution. The main Tajik democratic and pro-Islamic opposition groups announced that they would boycott the election and referendum because they had no say in drawing up the draft Constitution and would not be allowed to field their own candidates. The election and referendum restored the presidential system of rule and witnessed the further consolidation of Rakhmonov's power when he was elected by a wide margin and his Constitution was overwhelmingly approved. Only one candidate besides Rakhmonov was permitted to run, Abdumalik Abdullojanov, a prominent politician in the northern Leninabad region and a former Tajik prime minister. Abdullojanov alleged that there was widespread election fraud. The OSCE declined to send monitors because it viewed the electoral process as not meeting its standards. Elections to a new 181-member legislature took place in February 1995. Four parties were allowed to compete, but restrictive nomination procedures ensured that about 40% of candidates ran unopposed. The election excluded virtually all opposition parties, and Western groups refused to monitor the "seriously flawed" vote.

The Tajik legislature in June 1999 rubber-stamped constitutional changes proposed by Rakhmonov calling for a seven-year presidential term, a two-house Supreme Assembly (legislature), and the legalization of religious parties. The resulting presidential and parliamentary elections, in 1999 and 2000, respectively, were widely considered to be unfair yet peaceful. The inclusion of an overtly declared Islamic party committed to secular government (Islamic Rebirth Party) and several other parties in the Parliamentary elections represented an improvement in the Tajik people's right to choose their government. Tajikistan is the only Central Asian country in which a religiously affiliated political party is represented in Parliament.

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