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Tajik Poll Seen As Gauge Of Progress --> For more on the elections in Tajikistan, see our dedicated "Tajikistan Votes 2005" --> /specials/tajikelections/ webpage. For more on the region, see our "Central Asia" --> /specials/central_asia/ webpage.

27 February 2005 -- Polls have opened in Tajikistan for the country's second parliamentary poll since its civil war in the 1990s. Analysts see the election as a gauge of how far the country has come on the road to democracy and stability.

Nearly 230 candidates will be vying for 63 seats in the Majlisi Namoyandagon, or lower house of parliament.

Most analysts predict victory for the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT), led by its chairman and Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov.

Today, Rakhmonov praised the electoral process.

"I think [the current election process] is much more transparent than the previous election," Rakhmonov said. "I would not compare elections in our society to those in the United States and the West. I do not deny our shortcomings. We are just at the starting point of the creation of a democratic, secular country with the rule of law."

The PDPT already holds a majority of seats in parliament. It's only real challenger, the Islamic Renaissance Party, is parliament's only opposition party, with just two seats. The other opposition parties have scant resources and few candidates.