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Tajik President Rejects Criticism Of Parliamentary Elections

President Emomali Rakhmon called the election 'democratic and transparent,' but observers disagree.
President Emomali Rakhmon called the election 'democratic and transparent,' but observers disagree.
DUSHANBE -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has rejected criticism of last month's parliamentary elections, describing them as democratic and transparent, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Rahmon made the comments during an address at the opening session of parliament's lower chamber.

Rahmon said the February 28 parliamentary elections were democratic and transparent, and that voting took place peacefully.

It was his first response to international observers' claims that the elections failed to meet many basic democratic standards.

The initial report by OSCE and EU monitors noted "certain small positive steps," and "a certain level of pluralism." But they also registered "serious irregularities on polling day including cases of ballot stuffing."

Rahmon said that all of Tajikistan's past problems began after an election; for example, the civil war that began in 1992 was triggered by the opposition's refusal to acknowledge the victory of former Communist Party head Rahmon Nabiyev in the 1991 presidential ballot.

Rahmon said that in the past, political parties could not have waged their election campaign freely. He said that enmity towards opposition parties was not acceptable, and he proposed cooperating with them.

But all key parliament positions were allocated to members of Rahmon's National Democratic Party of Tajikistan, which won 55 of the 63 parliament seats.

As in previous parliaments, the posts of parliament speaker and deputy speakers were distributed between representatives of various regions.

Former Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Shukurjon Zuhurov, who was elected from the eastern Rasht region -- the main opposition stronghold during the civil war -- was elected speaker of the lower house.

Former presidential administration head Amirsho Miraliev, who is from Rahmon's native Danghara district in the southern province of Khatlon, was appointed first deputy speaker.

The two deputy speaker posts went to Nazira Ghafforova, from the northern Sughd Province, and Mirgand Shahbozov, from Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province.