Tajik Opposition Still Unclear on Election Tactics

Tajik Opposition Still Unclear on Election Tactics

Tuesday, 3 September, 2013

Now that a date of November 6 has been officially set for Tajikistan’s presidential election, opposition parties are still figuring out how many candidates they can sensibly field against incumbent Imomali Rahmon.

The election date was agreed at a meeting of both houses of parliament on September 2.

Two opposition parties are talking of throwing their combined forces behind a joint candidate, while others look set to go it alone.

The Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) is teaming up with the Social Democrats. Social Democrat leader Rahmatillo Zoirov says his name is among three or four in the hat.

The alliance would combine the IRP’s membership numbers – easily the largest of any opposition group – with the Social Democrats’ secular profile, which might attract voters who would otherwise be uncomfortable choosing a party with Islam in its name. The electoral bloc is called the Union of Reformist Forces.

The IRP has come under concerted attack in state-run media, with allegations that its claimed membership of 40,000 is inflated. Senior party figure Hikmatullo Saifullozoda says the rhetoric just shows big an electoral threat the IRP presents to the ruling elite.

After talking to both, a third group, the Democratic Party, has decided to nominate a separate candidate. The Communist Party, too, will put someone forward, offering a vision of a state-led, socialist economy.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova, head of the Perspektiva Plus NGO, senses a real change in this election, even if she does not predict an opposition win.

“The opposition is very serious this time,” she told IWPR. “It used to be that democratic forces, technical people, academics and public figures would sit in some kitchen somewhere and quietly say they supported [the opposition], but that would never get said anywhere official. But now, I think this is going to be the first step towards a civil society, and reforms, regardless of the [election] outcome.”

Meanwhile, the governing People’s Democratic Party is confident that President Rahmonov, in power since 1992, will face no real obstacles to winning another seven years in office.

Shahodat Saibnazarova is IWPR Radio Editor in Tajikistan.

The 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.

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