Female Presidential Candidate a First for Tajikistan
The selection of human rights activist Oinikhol Bobonazarova as the main opposition candidate in Tajikistan’s presidential election has revived the debate about the role of women in public life.
Opposition candidates would not usually get much attention in the local media, but the mere fact that Bobonazarova is female has generated a lot of press comment about her views, her behaviour and her dress sense.
Bobonazarov is running for the Union of Reformist Forces, a electoral coalition whose main players are the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) and the Social Democratic Party. (See Surprise Candidate for Tajik Opposition.)
IRP leader Muhiddin Kabiri says Bobonazarova was selected after long deliberation because she was a neutral, apolitical figure capable of attracting a broad swathe of the electorate.
A female candidate could have particular voter appeal in Tajikistan, which currently has significantly more women than men because the hundreds of thousands of labour migrants in Russian and other countries are predominantly male.
Other Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey have had female presidents or prime ministers. Nearer home, in Kyrgyzstan, Roza Otunbaeva was not only the first woman elected to the presidency, but the first head of state to step down voluntarily as part of a democratic process.
Gender expert Alla Kuvatova points out that Tajikistan is not doing well in terms of political representation. There is only one woman in the cabinet, a deputy prime minister.
“It’s going to be a long battle in this country,” she said. “This is just a starting-point. But why not?”
Shahodat Saibnazarova is IWPR Radio Editor in Tajikistan.
This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.