Saturday, September 02, 2006

Tajik Elections Announced while the Government tries to Destroy Imaginary Enemies

Now that Tajikistan has announced its presidential elections for November 6 of this year, the campaigning can begin, if there is anybody left to campaign against that is. For almost a year now, it seems that President Rakhmanov has been clearing the ground for his next re-election. The leader of one opposition political party (Mahmudruzi Iskandarov of the Democratic Party) is in prison. Independent media has been muffled, and the BBC’s local service has been closed. International Aid Organizations promoting democracy have been warned, harassed, or closed. But the most recent developments are the most shocking--the leader of another opposition party may have been poisoned

Rahmatullo Zoirov, who recently claimed to have discovered he was poisoned, is the head of the Social Democratic Party, a party that, while lacking any real popular support, is the only political force in the country that is visibly outspoken against the President Rakhmanov, especially in the run-up to November’s election. While there is no confirmation of Zoirov’s claims that he was poisoned, and he himself does not directly accuse the government of the poisoning, one cannot help but to think of the parallels to the poisoning of Victor Yushenko in Ukraine. Tajikistan, of course, is not Ukraine. There is presently no serious opposition to President Rakhmanov in his bid to once again become the leader of the country, and Tajikistan does not have a huge diaspora in the Americas and Europe (like Ukraine) to lobby for international involvement in the election. With the exception of Zoirov and Iskandarov, it seems that all other opposition forces are presently content to make deals with Rakhmanov in order to retain their small slices of the pie. In other words, November’s presidential election have no chance of being seriously contested.

However, even if the Government of Tajikistan did not have anything to do with Zoirov’s poisoning, it has done enough over the past year to demonstrate its “orangephobic” paranoia about the upcoming Tajik elections. But why? Who are the imaginary enemies they are fighting, and who is advising the President that such enemies are real? Is it overzealous advisors who can use the President’s paranoia to their advantage, or is it international players hoping to do the same thing?


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