Tajikistan’s leader Emomali Rahmon is on course for a big victory garnering more than 90 percent of the vote following Sunday’s presidential election in which he faced only token opposition, according to preliminary results.
The Central Electoral Commission said that 90.9 percent of voters in Sunday’s poll had cast their ballot for the 68-year-old leader who will secure a fresh seven-year term.
Turnout was higher than 85 percent, according to the electoral body.
The win will allow Rahmon to pass 30 years in power and overtake Kazakhstan’s recently retired Nursultan Nazarbayev as the former Soviet Union’s longest-ruling leader. Rahmon, who removed term limits through a 2016 constitutional reform, has been in power since 1992.
While disputed ballots in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and fellow former Soviet republic Belarus have triggered massive upheaval, similar developments appear unlikely in Tajikistan – a Persian-speaking nation of 9.5 million people.
But Rahmon and his government face unprecedented challenges after the weakest economy of all Soviet successor states joined others in being battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Over a million Tajiks are believed to work abroad, mostly in Russia.
Alex Kokcharov, a country risk research analyst at IHS Markit in London, said remittances sent home dropped “by 15–25 percent year on year in the first half, according to differing reports”.
“If a large number of Tajik worker migrants would come back to Tajikistan from Russia where many have lost jobs in this year’s crisis, it will increase domestic instability – both politically and economically,” said Kokcharov, whose company predicts a 6.5 percent contraction of the economy this year.
The bleak economic outlook also raises questions about how the government will be able to service external debt, equating to more than a third of GDP, with China a leading debt-holder.
But voters in the capital Dushanbe overwhelmingly told AFP that they intended to vote for Rahmon, with many citing the importance of peace and stability more than two decades after the conclusion of a bitter civil war.
Safar Mallayev, 66, was voting for Rahmon because of his “enormous experience”.
“Peace is the main thing. If we have peace it means everything will be all right,” Mallayev said.