Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rakhmon has won re-election by a landslide on Wednesday, extending his 20-year-long rule by another seven years.
Mr Rakhmon received 83.1 per cent of the votes, the Central Election Commission announced on Thursday. Almost 87 per cent of the country’s 4 million eligible voters cast their ballots.
The 61-year-old leader ran against five little-known and largely loyal candidates, none of who garnered more than 5 per cent of the votes. The only credible challenger, rights activist Oinihol Bobonazarova, was disqualified for failing to collect the signatures of 5 per cent of the nation's eligible voters.
Several opposition parties, including the popular Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, boycotted the election, accusing the government of campaign violations and intimidation.
Mr Rakhmon has ruled Tajikistan since 1992 and is credited with winning a five-year civil war against Islamic militants relying on Russia’s support. Mr Rakhmon’s new presidential term must be his last under the Constitution, which has been changed twice to enable him to prolong his stay in power.
Tajikistan is one of the poorest states in the former Soviet Union, with more than one million Tajiks earning a living in Russia.
In the run-up to Sunday’s election Tajikistan signed an agreement with Russia on a 30-year extension of the Soviet-era 201 military base, which Moscow considers as a bulwark against Islamist insurgency and drug trafficking from Afghanistan. The Tajik Parliament ratified the deal after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin promised to support Mr Rakhmon’s re-election for another presidential term. Moscow has also allowed Tajik migrant workers to stay in Russia for three years running, against one year for the citizens of other former Soviet states.
India helped Tajikistan refurbish an air base at Ayni in the past decade in the hope of securing a bridgehead in the strategically located region