Referendum in Tajikistan tightens President Rakhmon’s grip on power

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — Tajikistan’s Central Election Commission has announced preliminary results of the May 22 nationwide referendum on amendments to the country’s Constitution, Avesta news agency reported.

According to Commission Chairman Bakhtiyor Khudoyerzoda, 92 percent of eligible voters took part in the referendum. The constitutional amendments have been supported by 3.814 million voters or 94.7 percent.   

The amendments strengthen the grip on power of President Emomali Rakhmon.

The referendum included 41 proposed amendments to the Constitution, RFE/RL reported.

Voters could either vote “yes” or “no” to the package. It was not possible to vote on individual amendments.

The most important proposed amendments include eliminating the term limit for Rakhmon, lowering the age of eligibility to become president, and banning the creation of faith-based political parties.

The term-limit amendment would apply only to Rakhmon, owing to the “Leader of the Nation” status the parliament voted to grant him last year, which also affords him and his family permanent immunity from criminal prosecution.
 
Rakhmon has ruled Tajikistan for close to a quarter of a century, showing what critics say an increased disregard for religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in recent years.

The referendum also asked voters to lower the presidential age limit from 35 to 30 — a change that could position Rakhmon’s 29-year-old son, Rustam Emomali, for an early succession.

The referendum further proposed a ban on the formation of parties based on religion amid the ongoing trial of key members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The IRPT was widely viewed as moderate before the government branded it a terrorist group last year, stripping away the most significant formal opposition to the Rakhmon regime.

Sergey Kwan

TCA