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Tajikistan: Elections Draw Complaints From Observers, Opposition

  • Bruce Pannier

Preliminary results are in from Tajikistan's parliamentary elections on Sunday -- and with them, preliminary reports of election violations. RFE/RL's Bruce Pannier reports that international observers and opposition parties have been quick with their complaints.

Prague, 29 February 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Tajikistan's parliamentary elections on Sunday were monitored extensively, as the last step in the ceasefire agreement that ended the civil war in 1997. The United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, had a joint commission of observers in Tajikistan on election day.

Immediately after the polls closed, the deputy head of Tajikistan's Central Election Commission, Abdurahmon Abdumannunov, pronounced his satisfaction.

"International observers present at polling stations discussed voting with me and they had no complaints. There were some technical complaints, but they were not serious. In every election, in every country, there are some technical problems."

But the UN took a different view. In New York on Monday, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the elections had some serious problems.

"The mission said it received very few reports of security incidents, but while some polling procedures were conducted properly, important control provisions during the polling were violated. For example, evidence of proxy voting was unacceptably high in more than 68 percent of the precincts observed. Voters were allowed to cast ballots without proper identification documents and voters were handed more ballots than allowed. The extremely high voter turnout figures -- 87 percent -- announced two hours before the closing of the polling stations and their unofficial forecast of more than 96 percent turnout before the end of the polling cast serious doubt over the integrity of the voting results."

Zenon Kukhchyak is the head of the joint UN-OSCE monitoring commission on the scene. He said Monday that there were problems even prior to Sunday's vote.

"The elections were discredited when one candidate was killed in Dushanbe. The result was increased tension in Dushanbe and some other regions. Elections were not adequate, the basis for legal and media access was not equal, and treatment of [political] parties by the media was not objective."

The murdered candidate Kukhchyak spoke of was Deputy Security Minister Shamsullo Jabirov. He was killed when the car he was riding in, which belonged to Dushanbe's mayor, blew up less than two weeks before elections.

That incident was only one example of the campaign of terrorism that accompanied the political campaign. In the weeks before the election, a bomb was planted on a bus in Dushanbe, policemen were shot, and even the deputy prime minister's car was attacked.

Based on preliminary results, it appears the party of President Imomali Rakhmonov, the People's Democratic Party, will take a majority of the 63 seats available.

Rahmatullo Zohirov is a candidate who was barred from running because of alleged irregularities in his registration. He says a parliament dominated by the president's party will mean the end of political debate in Tajikistan.

"If, as we see, members of the presidential party keep a lot of places in the lower house of parliament, the majority of parliament will be members of the PDP [People's Democratic Party], and the president of the republic heads this party. In this situation any law, any decree which is not in the interests of the executive authorities will be thrown out. That is why I say this parliament will not carry out its most important duties."

The opposition Islamic Renaissance Party was expected to come in third, behind the president's party and the Communist Party. Before the elections, the head of the party, Said Abdullo Nuri, predicted his party would take more than 60 percent of the vote, but on Monday he said the violations at voting stations do not bode well for his party.

"There is not one small point where we can see real fulfillment of the law. Especially monitors from the Islamic Renaissance Party who were registered by the Central Elections Commission according to the political protocol by which 20 percent of polling places would be watched by [Islamic Renaissance Party] officials. [The Central Elections Commission] did not fulfill the agreement to send out all the monitors. They (IRP officials) said there were problems in most places."

It is particularly important for Tajikistan that these elections be seen as fair. The elections mark the end of the peace accord which provided for a power-sharing deal between Nuri's supporters and Rakhmonov's -- two sides that were at war for more than five years.

As Rakhmonov's party seems likely to win the bulk of places in parliament, tensions can be expected to rise again in Tajikistan. Part of the reason the war started in 1992 was the perception on the part of some that their voice was ignored by those in power. Unless allegations of election violations are addressed promptly may feel they have been ignored again.

(Iskander Aliyev and Salimjon Aioubov of the Tajik Service and UN correspondent Robert McMahon contributed to this report.)