Main Tajik opposition parties fail to clear threshold to enter parliament

By bne IntelliNews March 2, 2015

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Tajikistan's main opposition parties have failed to clear a 5% threshold to enter parliament on party lists, and President Emomali Rahmon's party has won an absolute majority with 65.2% of the vote at the elections on March 1. The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda said on March 2 that 3.8mn voters out of registered 4.3mn took part in the election, a turnout of 87.7%.

According to preliminary results published by the electoral authorities, the ruling People's Democratic party received nearly 2.5mn votes and claimed 16 seats out of 22 available on party lists. The pro-presidential Agrarian party received three seats (11.8% of the vote), the Economic Reform party two seats (7.6%) and Socialist party one mandate with 5.5% of votes cast for parties. To enter parliament parties should clear a 5% electoral threshold.

The main opposition party – the Islamic Revival party - failed to clear the hurdle as, according to the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda, it received only 87,112 votes, or 2.3% of the total. Another party critical of the government – the Social Democratic party - got 18,875 votes or 0.5%. The Communist party and Democratic party could not get elected to parliament either with 2.3% and 1.7% of the vote respectively.

In the outgoing parliament, which was elected in 2010, the Islamic Revival party held two seats and the Communist party had one seat.

The election campaign had been marred by numerous irregularities and there were concerns that the votes would be rigged on election day. Tajikistan has never held parliamentary or presidential elections regarded as free and fair by the OSCE. Despite opposition parties and candidates' participation in the election, it took place in a restricted political space and failed to provide a level playing field for candidates, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) Election Observer Mission said on March 2.

“Engagement by various political forces in this campaign was, unfortunately, not enough to result in truly competitive elections. Uneven treatment by the authorities and remaining legal restrictions limited the space for debate on the real problems facing Tajikistan,” said Marietta Tidei, the Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission. “The voters, many of whom I was pleased to speak with yesterday, deserve more genuine discussion about the future of their country.”

“I was pleased to observe that the vote took place in a calm and peaceful manner, however significant shortcomings, including multiple voting and ballot box stuffing, and disregard of counting procedures meant that an honest count could not be guaranteed,” said Norbert Neuser, head of the European Parliament delegation. “I encourage the authorities to introduce the changes necessary to make the voting procedure transparent and credible.”

Indirectly pointing to the election being a foregone conclusion, the leader of the Communists, Shodi Shabdolov, said after the announcement of the results that the central commission had denied that his party would get only 3% of the vote, the Asia-Plus news agency reported on March 2. "[Commission chairman] Shermuhammad Shohiyon told us that this was just rumours and we would get our mandate in parliament. This way he simply forced us to keep meeting voters so they go to the polls," Asia-Plus quoted Shabdolov as saying. "I don't know who gives such advice to the president but it is a mistake and it will have a negative impact."

He said his party would not contest the results of the election because the law enforcement agencies and judiciary were dependent on the president. "We will not complain to anyone because all courts and prosecutors are subordinate to the head of the country, our President Emomali Rahmon, himself," the leader of the Communists said.

In addition to 22 seats in the lower chamber of the Tajik parliament, the Majlisi Namoyandagon or Assembly of Representatives, 182 candidates from political parties and independents are contesting parliamentary seats in 41 single-mandate constituencies.

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