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President Emomali Rahmon oversaw the continued regimentation of matters of faith in 2010, as his government, citing the need to curb extremism, urged or compelled the return of students obtaining a religious education abroad. Security conditions deteriorated during the year, and the country suffered its first-ever suicide bombing in September. Nevertheless, the ruling party enjoyed a predictable landslide victory in February parliamentary elections that international monitors described as falling short of democratic standards.
Former Communist Party leader Rakhmon Nabiyev was elected president of Tajikistan after the country declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Long-simmering, clan-based tensions, combined with various anti-Communist and Islamist movements, soon plunged the country into a five-year civil war. In September 1992, Communisthard-liners forced Nabiyev’s resignation; he was replaced later that year by Emomali Rakhmonov, a leading Communist Party member.
Rakhmonov was elected president in 1994, after most opposition candidates either boycotted or were prevented from competing in the poll. Similarly, progovernment candidates won the 1995 parliamentary elections amid a boycott by the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), a coalition of secular and Islamic groups that had emerged as the main force fighting against Rakhmonov’s government.
After a December 1996 ceasefire, Rakhmonov and UTO leader Said Abdullo Nuri signed a formal peace agreement in 1997, with a reintegration process to be overseen by a politically balanced National Reconciliation Commission. A September 1999 referendum that permitted the formation of religion-based political parties paved the way for the legal operation of the Islamic opposition, including the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). The referendum also extended the president’s term from five to seven years. In November, Rakhmonov was reelected with a reported 97 percent of the vote in a poll that was criticized by international observers for widespread irregularities.
In February 2000 parliamentary elections, Rakhmonov’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) received nearly 65 percent of the vote. Although the participation of six parties provided some political pluralism, a joint monitoring mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations cited serious problems. After the elections, the National Reconciliation Commission was formally disbanded. However, important provisions of the 1997 peace accord remained unimplemented, with demobilization of opposition factions incomplete and the government failing to meet a 30 percent quota for UTO members in senior government posts.
A 2003 constitutional referendum cleared a path for Rakhmonov to seek two additional terms, which would allow him to remain in office until 2020. The PDP easily won 2005 parliamentary elections amid reports of large-scale irregularities. In the run-up to the polls, a number of Rakhmonov’s prominent former allies were jailed, often on dubious charges.
Separately in 2005, Russian border guards who had long patrolled the frontier with Afghanistan completed their withdrawal. However, a Russian army division dating to the Soviet period remained in the country.
Rakhmonov won the November 2006 presidential election with more than 70 percent of the vote, although the OSCE noted lackluster campaigning and a general absence of real competition. The president broadened his influence to the cultural sphere in 2007, de-Russifying his surname to “Rahmon” in March and signing legislation in May to establishspendinglimits on birthday and wedding celebrations.
The country suffered extreme economic hardship in 2008 and 2009, and the security situation in 2010 experienced its worst deterioration since the 1992–97 civil war. In August, five prison guards were killed as 25 prisoners, some with extremist ties, escaped from a detention center in Dushanbe. In early September, a police station in Khujand was targeted in the country’s first suicide bombing. Later that month, nearly 30 soldiers were killed in an ambush on a patrol in the Rasht Valley.
The ruling PDP won 55 of 63 lower house seats in February 2010 parliamentary elections that failed to meet basic democratic standards, according to OSCE monitors.
Also during the year, Uzbekistan blocked rail shipments and issued numerous complaints over Tajikistan’s plans to build new hydropower plants, which Tashkent claimed would cause economic and environmental harm to Uzbekistan. Iran, meanwhile, continued to fund the construction of the Sangtuda-2 hydropower plant.
Tajikistan is not an electoral democracy. The 1994 constitution provides for a strong, directly elected president who enjoys broad authority to appoint and dismiss officials. A full-time, bicameral parliament was created in 1999, while amendments in 2003 allowed current president Emomali Rahmon to serve two additional seven-year terms beyond the 2006 election. In the Assembly of Representatives (lower chamber), 63 members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. In the 33-seat National Assembly (upper chamber), 25 members are chosen by local assemblies, and eight are appointed by the president, all for five-year terms. Elections are neither free nor fair.