Tajikistan's long-time leader Emomali Rakhmon does not have to worry about securing votes in the presidential election. What the country needs, say experts, is a change in management to solve its problems.
There are six candidates for the Tajikistan presidential election, held on Wednesday, November 6. Early polling suggests incumbent Emomali Rakhmon can expect to receive 90 percent of votes. Rawschan Abdullajew, head of the Tajik Foundation "Eurasia," believes Rakhmon's is a sure-fire win. "Everything the opposition has done over the past decade to grow roots in the country's political landscape has been destroyed by the powers that be," he told DW.
The Tajik president is elected for a seven-year term. Sixty-one-year-old Rakhmon has governed Tajikistan with an iron fist since 1992. Constitutional changes made in the years 1999 and 2003 destroyed all legal obstacles for him to contest elections until the year 2020.
No real opponents
In Wednesday's election, representatives of five parties are up against Rakhmon. But experts say they cannot be really viewed as a serious challenge to him.
"It is very probable that each of them will get one to two percent of the votes, with the exception of the candidate running for the communists. Considering the potential of the Communist Party, their candidate could get up to five percent of votes," according to political scientist Abdullajew.
The prominent lawyer and rights activist Ojnichol Bobonasarowa would have been a proper challenger to the incumbent leadership. She had been running for the opposition Islamic Rebirth Party, but was not able to collect the required amount of signatures to allow her to run as a candidate.
Bobonasarowa blames the public authorities, saying they failed to provide her with the necessary paperwork. She also said some arrests were even made while people were giving her their signatures. "Elections are a ring where fights take place. I could have never won being confronted with the powers that be," Bobonasarowa told DW.
A poorhouse in Central Asia
In their election campaigns, all candidates have promised the people of Tajikistan a better education and medical system. They all aim to provide affordable housing for everyone and create new jobs. What the candidates have failed to disclose, however, is how this will all be financed.
Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia. According to figures from the World Bank, the country's GDP was 872 US dollars per capita in the year 2012. Over one million people - one third of adults - seek work abroad because there aren't enough jobs for them at home.
Many of the problems in Tajikistan can be traced back to the civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The power struggle between regional clans that took place from 1992 to 1997 led to an economic loss of an estimated 10 billion US dollars. The country's geographic position does not do it any favors either. It borders Afghanistan in the south, so in order to ensure the border Tajikistan's government has deployed 16,000 soldiers, thus further straining the country's economic situation.
Relations with its northern neighbor Uzbekistan are also shaky. Adding to tensions over rights to water usage, Tashkent has been blocking an important rail connection to Dushanbe. Uzbekistan also stopped its gas deliveries to Tajikistan this year. Since then, the entire country has relied on one hydroelectric power station for its energy needs. The amount of energy produced there, however, is not enough to power all households and businesses.
Tajikistan needs change
Emomali Rakhmon in the run-up to this election promised to get his country out of its isolation regarding infrastructure and energy. But in order to do this, he said he would need a new team of capable managers. Many of the politicians who have accompanied him throughout his time in office are now over 60 years old, political scientist Raschid Abdullah says.
He expects to see a long and difficult transition period after the election - there has to and will be personnel changes. Tajik society's future backbone will be made of people who began their careers after the collapse of the Soviet Union. "They will receive posts in the state and political structures. The country's future will depend on this new generation," Abdullah told DW.