Tajikistan will hold a tightly controlled presidential election on October 11 with five candidates in the race, including the incumbent, long-serving authoritarian Emomali Rahmon, who is running for office for the fifth time.
The Tajik Constitution has been amended twice to make it possible for Rahmon to run so many times. Not a single election in which Rahmon claimed victory was deemed free, fair, or democratic by Western observers, who pointed out that Tajikistan has rarely allowed "real" opponents to run in its presidential races.
Here is a look at each of the previous elections and Rahmon’s "rivals" in them.
Rahmon first ran for president in 1994, after Tajikistan reinstated the presidential post, which had been abolished two years earlier. Between 1992 and 1994, Rahmon was head of the Supreme Council, the highest office in the country at the time.
Abdullojonov, Rahmon’s rival in the 1994 election, had previously served as prime minister. Election officials announced that Rahmon won the election with 60 percent of the vote. Abdullojonov said he was the true winner of the election. He left Tajikistan after the election and is currently based in the United States. In 2013, Abdullojonov was detained in Ukraine on an international arrest warrant at the request of Tajik authorities.
The election took place during a civil war and Rahmon’s top rival disputed the election results.
This election was held two years after the Tajik government and the Islamist-led opposition signed a national peace and reconciliation treaty, ending the civil war.
Ahead of the election, Tajikistan amended the constitution to introduce a seven-year, single-term presidency. The new rule, however, wouldn’t apply for the sitting president, Rahmon, who was allowed to run for a second term.
Several presidential hopefuls complained that authorities prevented them from collecting signatures to allow them to become candidates. The leader of the Socialist Party, Safarali Kenjaev, had planned to run for president but was assassinated in Dushanbe eight months before the vote.
It was the first and the last time a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) ran in a presidential election. According to officials results, Usmon got about 2 percent of the vote. In an interview with the BBC, Usmon said the opposition’s defeat was due to "certain mistakes by the IRPT leaders who until the last moment boycotted the election." Soon after the election, Usmon quit the party. Usmon had briefly served as deputy prime minister in 1992. He was based in Afghanistan during the Tajik Civil War with many other opposition leaders. Between 1998 and 2000 he served as trade and economy minster as part of the power-sharing government.
According to official results, Rahmon won the 1999 election with 97.6 percent of the vote.
Tajikistan amended the constitution again in 2003 to replace the single-term presidency with two seven-year terms.
The 2006 vote was the first presidential election in Tajikistan that was monitored by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The monitors concluded that the vote didn’t meet the standards of democratic elections and lacked genuine competition despite having five candidates in the race.
Ghafforov was registered as the candidate of the Socialist Party. Before the election, the party split into two groups, one led by Ghafforov and the other by politician Mirhusein Nazriev. The Justice Ministry officially registered Ghafforov’s group, paving his way to run for president. According to official results, he received 2.8 percent of the vote.
Qaroqulov set up a new political group, the Agrarian Party, a year before the election. He ran for president as the candidate of his newly established, pro-government party and officially won slightly more than 5 percent of the vote. Qaroqulov died from a stroke in 2014.
Talbakov, the deputy head of the pro-government Communist Party, won 5.2 percent of the vote. Talbakov became the leader of the party in July 2016 and died in December of that year.
According to official election results, Boboev -- the leader of the pro-government Economic Reforms Party -- received 6.2 percent of the vote. Boboev was the party's chairman until early 2020 when he retired.
Tajikistan's election commission announced that Rahmon won with 79.3 percent of the vote.
In April 2013, some seven months before the presidential election, Zayd Saidov, a wealthy businessman and former industry minister, announced plans to establish a political party called New Tajikistan. Soon after the announcement, Saidov was arrested on multiple charges, including forgery and polygamy. He is currently serving a 29-year prison sentence. Saidov’s supporters say the case against him was politically motivated.
Citing reports by OSCE monitors, the European Union said the 2013 election fell short of democratic standards. The United States said the election wasn’t free, fair, or transparent.
Only the monitors from the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States deemed the election "democratic."
Ghafforov, the head of the pro-government Socialist Party, ran for president for a second time. According to official results he received 1.4 percent of the vote.
It was also the second time for Talbakov, the deputy head of the pro-government Communist Party, to take part in a presidential election. He got nearly 5 percent of the vote. He died in 2016 at the age of 61.
Boboev, the head of the pro-government Economic Reforms Party, who ran for president for a second time, received 3.8 percent of the vote. Boboev retired from politics ahead of the March 2020 parliamentary elections.
It was the first time for Usmonzoda, the leader of the pro-government Democratic Party, to take part in a presidential vote. The election commission said he got slightly more than 1 percent of the vote.
According to official results, Bukhoriev, the leader of the Agrarian Party, received 4.4 percent of the vote.
The coalition Union of Reformist Forces nominated Bobonazova to run against Rahmon. Bobonazarova, a leading rights activist and the former head of the Soros Foundation office in Dushanbe, was to be the only genuine rival to Rahmon in the presidential race. She said her campaign was put "under pressure," starting with state-run television and extending to regional governors and neighborhood committee heads. Bobonazarova then quit the race, saying she had narrowly missed collecting the 210,000 signatures need to be registered as a candidate.
Election officials said Rahmon won with 84.2 percent of the vote.
Five candidates have registered to take part in the October 11 vote. For Rahmon, it’s his fifth time running for the top post.
In 2016, the Tajik parliament amended the constitution to formally give Rahmon the title "Leader of the Nation" and the right to run for president as often as he wants.
The other four candidates represent pro-government parties. The Social Democrat Party, the only genuine opposition group in the country, has boycotted the election.
It’s the first presidential election in Tajikistan since the IRPT was banned by the Supreme Court in 2015. Some of his leaders and officials have been imprisoned while others have left the country amid a government crackdown.
At least three people have unsuccessfully tried to run as independent candidates in 2020 but were prevented from doing so.
The leader of the Socialist Party, Ghafforov, is running for president for a third time. He was a candidate in the 2006 and 2013 elections. Ghafforov, 69, has been elected a member of parliament three times.
Abdulloev, 72, has been the head of the Communist Party since 2017. He is a member of parliament and has worked as a department head in the Interior Ministry and regional chief of the state Anti-Narcotics Agency in the Khatlon Province.
The leader of the Agrarian Party, Latifzoda, 60, has been a member of parliament since 2010. In 2013-2014, he served as governor of Vose district in the Khatlon Province.
Rahmatzoda, 60, became the leader of the Economic Reforms Party in early 2020. He has been a member of parliament since 2015.
The 30-year-old lawyer from the eastern town of Khorugh announced that he intended to run for president as an independent candidate. But Erghashev later said he had decided not to continue his campaign because he failed to collect enough signatures to register as a candidate.