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Tajik Leader's Party Grabs Parliament Majority

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

DUSHANBE (Reuters) -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's party has retained its parliamentary majority, the Central Election Commission said today after a poll heavily criticized by international observers and opposition parties.

The results mean little will change from the previous parliament where Rashmon's People's Democratic Party, in power for 17 years, held 57 seats and Islamists had two.

Western monitors denounced the vote in the former Soviet state for failing basic democratic standards, with irregularities including ballot-box stuffing and suspect proxy voting.

Rahmon's party won 53 seats out of 63 in the lower house of parliament in the February 28 poll, the election commission said, citing preliminary results.

The Islamic Revival Party, Tajikistan's main opposition movement and Central Asia's only Islamist party, won two seats, senior commission official Mukhibullo Dadajanov told reporters.

Five seats will be split between communists and two other parties that usually support the government while voting will be re-run in one single-seat constituency, Dadajanov said.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's main election monitoring group, said on March 1 that serious irregularities meant Tajikistan's parliamentary election failed to meet basic democratic standards. The U.S. embassy also criticized "widespread fraud and irregularities."

"Initial evaluation of observations by embassy staff election observers indicates that the vote was beset by procedural irregularities and fraud, including cases of ballot stuffing," it said in a statement late on March 1.

Tajikistan, which has a long border with Afghanistan, has never held an election deemed free and fair by Western monitors.

The Islamic Revival Party said today it would challenge the poll results in court.

"There was mass fraud," the party's leader Mukhiddin Kabiri told reporters. "In a fair election we would have got 30 percent of votes."

Dadajanov rejected all criticism.

"After every election someone is happy and someone is unhappy, both among voters and political parties," he said. "We have not received any proof of the violations that the Islamic Revival Party is talking about."

Kabiri did not announce any plans for public protests which are a rare event in the tightly run nation still recovering from a civil war in the 1990s that pitched Islamists against Rahmon's government and killed more than 100,000 people.