Prague, 17 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The Tajik parliament has approved a series of changes to the Election Code that should improve the election process.
The amendments, among other things, call for independent members to be appointed to local election commissions and outlaw the presence of armed men at polling stations.
On the negative side, the amendments for the first time impose a registration fee on candidates -- but a compromise allowed for this fee to be lowered to $500 per candidate from an original proposal of $3,000. Still, some say parties may not be able to afford registering many candidates.
One opposition member voiced some dissatisfaction with the amendments, agreeing that it was unfortunate that party representatives would not be present at polling stations.
A spokesman for the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT), Jumaboy Sanginov, said the changes bring new opportunities to those interested in participating in government. "I think that passing the new amendments to the Election Code of Tajikistan will improve the law, and it provides more opportunities for the democratic and free registration of deputies," he said.
The chairman of the Tajik Communist Party, Shody Shabdolov, also voiced satisfaction with the changes. "Interference from different representatives [of the government or political parties] in the process of registering and voting is forbidden now," he said. "The printing of ballots in local printing shops, where they often printed fake ballots, is also forbidden. Ballots will be printed only in one center. Also armed men have no right to interfere."
The upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for February, will be only the second poll since the civil war ended in Tajikistan.
A spokesman for the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Nasriddin Saidov, said his party generally welcomed the amendments, but added there were two issues the party wished had been included. "Two amendments that would have had a huge influence on elections were not accepted," he said. "We proposed a change to Article 15 of this law, to include representatives of political parties at polling stations on voting day. They should be there because experience has shown that all violations occur in these places. Also, we proposed changes to Article 46, so that all parties should be provided with the tabulation of vote results right after counting, so they could compare them to the later, final, official results."
The leader of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Mahmudruzi Iskanderov, also voiced some dissatisfaction with the amendments, agreeing that it was unfortunate that party representatives would not be present at polling stations.
Only the PDPT, the Communist Party, and the Islamic Renaissance Party are represented in the current parliament, and only these three parties can currently claim more than 10,000 members. But all the parties indicated the amendments give them a better chance to compete in a vote they hope will be more transparent than previous efforts.
(RFE/RL’s Tajik Service contributed to this report.)