Voters in Tajikistan go to the polls on March 1 to cast ballots in parliamentary elections. Seven parties are registered to compete, but everyone already knows that President Emomali Rahmon’s party -- the People’s Democratic Party of Tajikistan -- will win the most seats.
But there are some interesting side stories in this campaign, such as the notable absence of the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), once the second largest party in the country, but now banned and declared an extremist group.
The only genuine opposition party left in the race, the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, is trying to win some seats in parliament with leader Rahmatullo Zoirov saying he has met with voters more than 60 times -- not an easy feat in Tajikistan.
And some analysts are looking closely to see if there are any clues in these parliamentary elections as to what might happen later this year when Tajikistan holds a presidential poll. Incumbent Rahmon, in power since 1992 and currently 67 years old, will seek reelection -- or possibly opt to hand over the title of president to a hand-picked successor.
RFE/RL's Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on the upcoming elections and what might be in store later this year. Taking part in the discussion this week were: from Arlington, Virginia, Anthony Bowyer, Eurasia adviser at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems; from Poland, Muhamadjon Kabirov of the Foundation for Intercultural Integration, and also the nephew of IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri; and from RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, Sirojiddin Tolibov. I’ve watched Tajikistan’s elections for a while now, so I had a comment or two to throw in.