DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan’s presidential election, won by President Imomali Rakhmon, lacked pluralism and genuine choice after the only serious opposition rival was disqualified, a group of international observers said on Thursday.
“While quiet and peaceful, this was an election without a real choice,” Gordana Comic, who led an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a statement.
Oynihol Bobonazarova, a would-be candidate who was backed by the opposition Islamic Revival Party and the Social Democrats, was barred from the election because she failed to present the 210,000 petition signatures required to get on the ballot.
Bobonazarova told Reuters before the vote that many activists collecting signatures to support her had been summoned by prosecutors or intimidated by security agents.
Tajikistan’s Central Election Commission said Rakhmon had won 83.1 percent in Wednesday’s election, in which he ran against five little-known and largely loyal candidates.
Extensive state media coverage of the official activities of Rakhmon, in power since 1992, provided him with a significant advantage, the delegation of monitors that also included representatives of the European Parliament concluded.
“Being in power requires abiding by OSCE commitments, not taking advantage of incumbency, as we saw. Greater genuine political pluralism will be critical for Tajikistan to meet its democratic commitments,” said Comic of the OSCE.
Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Steve Gutterman