Politics of Tajikistan

Politics of Tajikistan

Politics of Tajikistan takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Legislative power is vested in both the executive branch and the two chambers of parliament.

Political developments

Tajikistan gained its independence during the breakup of the Soviet Union on September 9 1991 and promptly fell into a civil war from 1992–1997 between old-guard regionally based ruling elites and disenfranchised regions, democratic liberal reformists, and Islamists loosely organized as the United Tajik Opposition. Other combatants and armed bands that flourished in this civil chaos simply reflected the breakdown of central authority rather than loyalty to a political faction. The height of hostilities occurred between 1992-93. By 1997, the predominantly Kulyabi-led Tajik government and the UTO successfully negotiated a power-sharing peace accord and implemented it by 2000.

Tajikistan is slowly rebuilding itself with an integrated government and continues to permit a Russian military presence to guard their border with Afghanistan and the basing of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division that never left Tajikistan when it became independent. Most of these Russian-led forces, however, are local Tajik noncommissioned officers and soldiers.

Both Tajikistan's presidential and parliamentary elections, in 1999 and 2000, respectively, were widely considered to be flawed and unfair but peaceful. The inclusion of an Islamist party committed to secular government (Islamic Renaissance Party) and several other parties in the Parliamentary elections represented an improvement in the Tajik people's right to choose their government. Tajikistan is the only Central Asian country in which a religiously affiliated political party is represented in Parliament. President Rahmonov, while no longer specifically obliged--as he was under the peace accords--to allocate one-third of government positions to the UTO, has kept some former UTO officials in senior cabinet-level positions. While the government and the now incorporated former opposition continue to distrust each other, they have often found a way to work with each other and are committed to peacefully resolving their differences.

Prior to the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the civil war in Afghanistan produced cross-border effects that threatened to destabilize Tajikistan's fragile and hard-won peace. In the summers of 1999 and 2000, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan used Tajikistan as a staging ground for an insurgency campaign against the government of Uzbekistan. At the same time, Taliban advances in northern Afghanistan threatened to inundate Tajikistan with thousands of refugees. A constant flow of illegal narcotics continues to transit Tajikistan from Afghanistan on its way to Russian and European markets, leaving widespread violent crime, corruption, increased HIV incidence, and economic distortions in its wake. During 2002, stability in the country continued to increase, and the year was largely free of the assassinations and outbreaks of violence perpetrated by unreformed opposition members that plagued the country in previous years.

The government has been criticized for antisemitism. In 2006, the government began demolition of the last remaining synagogue in the country, which was functioning and serving the small Bukaharan Jewish community, as well as their ritual bath, kosher butcher, and classrooms, to make room for a new Presidential residence. [cite web
title=Tajikistan: Demolition of country's only synagogue begins

Executive branch

Emomali Rahmonov
6 November 1994
Prime Minister
Ogil Oqilov
20 January 1999The president, who is directly elected, is the dominant figure in the government, serving as head of the government, called the Council of Ministers, and as chairman of the parliament (the Supreme Assembly, or Majlisi Oli). [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Tajikistan.pdf Tajikistan country profile] . Library of Congress Federal Research Division (January 2007). "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."] The president also appoints the prime minister and all members of the Council of Ministers, with parliamentary approval. Tajikistan held a constitutional referendum on 22 June 2003 that, among other things, set a term limit of two seven-year terms for the president.Fact|date=March 2008 In this geographically divided country, the ceremonial position of prime minister traditionally is held by a person from the north to nominally balance President Imomali Rakhmonov’s southern origin. In 2004 the executive branch fell further under the control of the governing party as appointments by Rakhmonov left the opposition with only 5 percent of major government positions. This event followed the expiration of the 1997 peace guarantee that the United Tajik Opposition (UPO) would occupy at least 30 percent of top government positions. Prior to the 2006 election, the Council of Ministers, which executes the decisions of the president, included two deputy prime ministers, 19 ministers, nine committee heads, and several ex officio members. After the election, Rakhmonov abolished 10 ministries and five state committees and reappointed Oqil Oqilov as prime minister. In 2003 a national referendum eliminated the constitutional two-term limitation on the current president, making Rakhmonov eligible to stand for re-election again in 2013. Rakhmonov also has accumulated substantial informal power through patronage.

Legislative branch

The bicameral Supreme Assembly ("Majlisi Oli") includes the 63-seat Assembly of Representatives ("Majlisi Namoyandagon"), which meets year-round, and the 33-seat National Assembly ("Majlisi Milli"), which meets at least twice per year. Until 2000 Tajikistan had a unicameral legislature. The members of the Assembly of Representatives are chosen by direct popular election to serve five-year terms. Of the 63 members of the Assembly of Representatives, 22 are elected by party, in proportion to the number of votes received by each party gaining at least 5 percent of total votes, and the remaining members are elected from single-member constituencies. Three-fourths of the National Assembly members are chosen by local council meetings of the four subnational jurisdictions, each of which is entitled to equal representation. The remaining members are appointed directly by the president. The pro-government People’s Democratic Party continued to control both houses of the parliament after the elections of 2005; that party gained 52 of the 63 seats in the Assembly of Representatives. In 2006, 11 women sat in the Assembly of Representatives, and five sat in the National Assembly. Opposition factions in the Supreme Assembly have clashed with pro-government members over some issues.

Judicial branch

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The Supreme Court is the highest court. Other high courts include the Supreme Economic Court and the Constitutional Court, which decides questions of constitutionality. The president appoints the judges of these three courts, with the approval of the legislature. There is also a Military Court. The judges of all courts are appointed to 10-year terms.

Though the judiciary is nominally independent, the executive branch and criminal groups have considerable influence on judicial functions. Bribery of judges, who are poorly paid and poorly trained, is commonplace. The court system has local, district, regional, and national levels, with each higher court serving as an appellate court for the level below. Appeals of court decisions are rare because the populace generally does not trust the judicial system. Constitutional guarantees to the right to an attorney and to a prompt and public trial often are ignored. The Soviet-era presumption of the guilt of the defendant remains in force. The procurator’s office conducts all criminal investigations. Trials are heard by juries except in cases of national security.

Administrative divisions

Tajikistan is divided into 2 provinces ("viloyatho", singular - "viloyat") and 1 autonomous province* ("viloyati mukhtor"): Viloyati Mukhtori Kuhistoni Badakhshon* (Khorugh - formerly Khorog), Viloyati Khatlon (Qurghonteppa - formerly Kurgan-Tyube), Viloyati Sughd (Khujand - formerly Leninabad)

"Note:" the administrative center name follows in parentheses

Provincial and local government

The executive heads of the provinces are appointed by the president. Provincial councils are chosen by direct election. Each province is divided into districts (totaling 13) and towns. Districts are directly subordinate to the central government. Heads of district and town governments are appointed by the president with the approval of district and town councils, which are elected by popular vote.

Electoral system

Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 years of age and older. A new election law passed in 2004 has received international criticism for its restrictive candidate registration requirements. Election requires an absolute majority of votes; if no candidate gains a majority, a second round is held between the top two vote getters. By controlling the Central Election Commission, the Rakhmonov regime has gained substantial influence over the registration of parties, the holding of referenda, and election procedures. In 1999 and 2003, referenda of dubious fairness made constitutional changes that strengthened Rakhmonov’s hold on power. International observers also found substantial irregularities in the conduct of the 1999 presidential election, in which only one opposition candidate was permitted to register, and the media were censored. Six parties participated in the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections, although in both cases observers reported state interference with the process and with opposition candidates’ access to the media. Rakhmonov easily won re-election in November 2006, gaining 79 percent of the vote against four little-known opponents; international monitors again found the election unfair. Three major opposition parties—the Democratic Party, the Islamic Rebirth Party, and the Social Democratic Party—boycotted the election.

Recent elections

Political parties

In the early 2000s, independent political parties continued to exist, but their operations were circumscribed and their influence marginal. The governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gained strength as some opposition party leaders joined the government and others were disqualified from participation in elections. The Communist Party of Tajikistan, a nominal opposition party that has supported President Rakhmonov on most issues, has lost support since 2000. The liberal, pro-market Democratic Party also has lost support. In 1997 Rakhmonov weakened his chief opposition emerging from the civil war, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), by naming movement leader Akbar Turajonzoda a deputy prime minister. In the ensuing years, the UTO was eclipsed politically by its main component organization, the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP). In 2003 the IRP lost its chief opposition issue as the ban on religious parties ended. Nevertheless, in 2006 parties still could not receive aid from religious institutions, and tension remained between the government and Islamic factions. In 2006 the IRP was the most influential opposition party in Tajikistan and the only religiously affiliated party represented in the national legislature of a Central Asian country. After the death of long-time IRP leader Said Abdullo Nuri in 2006, a possible split emerged from the struggle for party leadership. Some antigovernment sentiment has been channeled into radical Islamic organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is outlawed as a terrorist organization, rather than into conventional political parties. In 2006 six parties, including one faction of the Democratic Party, were banned, and a total of eight parties were registered. In 2005 Mahmadruzi Iskandarov, head of the Democratic Party, received a long prison term for terrorism after being abducted from exile, and in 2006 his party was replaced on the official list by a government-backed splinter group, Vatan.

International organization participation



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