Thursday, November 7, 2013

Authoritarian Electoral Process in Tajikistan

Tajikistan's electoral process, culminating in the re-election of Emomali Rahmon as president, provides a case study of how control of the administrative apparatus and the choice set guarantees the regime's preferred outcome. While five minor "opposition" candidates were on the ballot, the only challenger who could have made the election interesting did not obtain ballot access. Candidates must gain 210,000 signatures for ballot placement, and Oynihol Bobonazarova did not meet that threshold. Bobonazarova was not likely to win, nor was she likely to head any mass mobilization against Rahmon's rule, but she would have brought interesting elements to the campaign. Her resume seems to be authentic and clean, and she was endorsed by both of the main regime opponents: the Social Democratic Party and Islamic Renaissance Party. The OSCE highlighted the lack of competition and other issues, including evidence of election day fraud, in its preliminary post-election report.

With no real competition, efforts to commit fraud on election day were most likely to be focused on turnout to demonstrate that the incumbent enjoys a high level of public support. Because many Tajiks work abroad, their participation is especially important to gauge. The regime signaled the value of this constituency through a parliamentary press release highlighting an MP visiting Russia to meet with Tajik migrants and stump for the president and rules permitting early voting. Anecdotal evidence suggests that ballot box stuffing and proxy voting may have inflated turnout; it was over 80% two hours prior to polls closing. Tajik citizens spoke on camera about casting multiple ballots for relatives in a matter-of-fact way, perhaps unsurprising in a country where free and fair elections have not been held and citizens are not likely to have been educated about private and secure voting.

Unfortunately, Tajikistan does not make election data available online; the Central Commission for Elections and Referendums does not even have its own website. This lack of transparency prevents further analysis of the results.

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