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Interview: Tajik Election Campaign Lacks 'Competitiveness, Genuine Debates'

Tajik presidential candidates gathered in Khujad for a debate on October 24, with less than two weeks to go before the voting.
Tajikistan holds a presidential election on November 6 that's all but certain to result in a new seven-year term for the incumbent, Emomali Rahmon. An OSCE report has criticized media coverage of the campaign, saying it has all but ignored the five virtual unknowns who are on the ballot alongside Rahmon. RFE/RL Tajik Service correspondents Ganjinai Ganj and Barot Yusufi sat down in Dushanbe on November 1 with Paraschiva Badescu, head of the OSCE's election observation mission in Tajikistan, to get her assessment of the campaign.

RFE/RL: What do you think about the campaigning for the presidential election and the participation of the six candidates? Is it true that the campaign is boring and lacking competition?

Paraschiva Badescu: As we have mentioned in our Interim Report, till now, the campaign was rather quiet, with no visible campaigning [by candidates], except by the president. Efforts by the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums to ensure equal campaign conditions for all candidates are to be commended. However, the competitiveness and genuine debates [between candidates] are still missing....

Paraschiva Badescu, head of the OSCE's election observation mission in Tajikistan
Paraschiva Badescu, head of the OSCE's election observation mission in Tajikistan
Our mandate is different. It is to observe elections, [monitor] how the campaign is going on, whether the media is allowed to follow it, whether there are equal conditions -- but not to assess whether we are interested or not.

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RFE/RL: Have any of the presidential candidates complained of pressures or obstacles related to them during the election campaign?

Badescu: We had meetings with all registered candidates or their proxies. There were no complaints from their part concerning pressure. Complaints have been raised to us in relation to the collection of the signatures for one nominee. We are currently collecting information throughout the country to make an assessment of the signature-collection process. We noted that on 25 September, the Central Commission for Election and Referendums addressed the issue of the alleged administrative obstacles and sent an official letter to all local heads of districts and cities with the request to facilitate the process of [the] collection [of signatures].

RFE/RL: What do you think of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's visits to the regions?

Badescu: President Rahmon is also one of the six candidates. He carried out visits throughout the country, had meetings with local representatives, attended different ceremonies, [and] opened different economic, social, and other facilities. This activity was shown on TV, in the media, and is in contrast with activities of other candidates, the nature of which was rather formalistic and there is the difference in campaigning.

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RFE/RL: Which of the recommendations by OSCE/ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) regarding the election campaigning were not implemented?

Badescu: This is the fifth election in Tajikistan observed by the OSCE/ODIHR. The reports by previous missions, by [the OSCE/ODIHR's] Needs Assessment Mission and by other expert-opinions, contained a number of recommendations, including amending the legislation, [the] election campaign. They remained unaddressed.