Yet Another Election With Rahmon…
How The Tajik President Has Managed To Stay In Power For Nearly Three Decades

October 9, 2020

By RFE/RL’s Tajik Service and Current Time. Artwork by Liubov Moiseenko

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.

Rahmon’s 'rivals'

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.

Rahmon’s 'rivals'

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.

Rahmon’s 'rivals'

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."

Rahmon’s 'rivals'

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.

Rahmon’s 'rivals'