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11/8/06

Tajikistan: OSCE Cites Irregularities As Rakhmonov Is Declared Winner

PRAGUE, November 7, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Tajikistan's Central Election Commission has declared incumbent Imomali Rakhmonov the majority winner of the country's November 6 presidential election.

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have already dismissed the process as falling short of international standards, while their counterparts from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) endorsed the voting.

The head of Tajikistan's Central Election Commission, Mirzoali Boltuev, announced the winner of the presidential election at a news conference today.

"According to preliminary data and in line with Article 34 of the constitutional law of Tajikistan 'on the election of the president of the Republic of Tajikistan,' Imomali Sharifovich Rakhmonov is considered to be the elected president of the Republic of Tajikistan," Boltuev said.

Authorities said Rakhmonov received 79 percent of the vote, a victory that allows him to avoid a second-round runoff. The win -- handing Rakhmonov the third of what could conceivably be four seven-year terms -- was widely expected.

Rakhmonov was facing four little-known opponents in a race that opposition parties shunned, claiming the process was rigged long ago.

OSCE Criticism

The OSCE sent 170 international observers to the monitor the voting. The OSCE released a preliminary assessment today that concluded that "democratic practices were not fully tested in the 6 November presidential election" due to a lack of genuine competition. The OSCE described the campaign as "almost invisible" and pointed to "media coverage concentrating on the incumbent in his role as president."

In Dushanbe today, OSCE election coordinator Onno van der Wind stressed that the process fell short of democratic standards.

"While this election marks some improvement on the 1999 presidential election, the framework was not adequate for genuine democratic elections, which Tajikistan as an OSCE member, or I should say as an OSCE participating state, is committed to," van der Wind said.

The OSCE noted "widespread family voting, proxy voting, multiple voting, and identical signatures on voter lists." And the OSCE alleged that "voting and counting procedures were often not followed" despite special training for officials and "the turnout in places was improbably high."

The OSCE did credit election officials with a smooth balloting process, saying the "election took place in a peaceful environment and was effectively administered."

CIS Approval

The OSCE's counterparts from the former Soviet Union offered a far more positive view.

CIS Executive Committee Chairman Vladimir Rushailo told a news conference in Dushanbe today that the poll "was on line with the election code, with high voter turnout." Rushailo acknowledged that there were some "irregularities" but claimed they were "technical [and]...not massive." Rushailo said the flaws "had no serious impact on voting [or] election results."

The CIS has rarely challenged election results in the former Soviet Union, where official figures suggest almost impossibly high voter support for incumbents.

In comparison to other presidential elections in Central Asia, this year's presidential election in Tajikistan was a close race. Incumbents frequently win with upward of 90 percent of the vote.

In Tajikistan's last presidential election in 2000, Rakhmonov was given 92 percent versus 2 percent for his sole opponent.

(RFE/RL's Tajik Service contributed to this report.)


Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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