Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Tajik Opposition Parties Nominate Female Candidate President

Published in Field Reports
Rate this item
(4 votes)

By Alexander Sodiqov (the 18/09/2013 issue of the CACI Analyst)

On September 9, the Alliance of Reformist Forces of Tajikistan (ARFT) announced that its members will support a unified candidate during the presidential elections set for November 6, 2013. The Alliance includes the country’s two leading opposition parties, the Islamic Revival Party (IRPT) and Social-Democratic Party (SDPT), as well as a number of non-governmental organizations and prominent individuals. During the upcoming elections, these diverse political forces will rally behind Oynihol Bobonazarova, a 65-year old woman lawyer and human rights activist, not currently associated with any political party.

 The announcement followed uneasy negotiations between the members of the ARFT over a candidate who would be acceptable to their very different constituencies. The IRPT is the largest opposition group in the country and perhaps the one closest resembling a genuine political party with strong social and ideological roots as well as a complex organizational structure. The group served as a leading force in the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) which fought against the government of incumbent President Emomali Rahmon during the 1992-1997 civil war. The IRPT’s main support bases are the traditionally more religious communities in the eastern Rasht Valley (Gharm) and the southwestern region of Qurghonteppa (Kurgan-Tube), although it has supporters throughout the country. The SDPT, in contrast, draws its support from among a much narrower group of urban-based intelligentsia united around the party’s leader, prominent lawyer and activist Rahmatillo Zoyirov. 

The IRPT is by far the strongest political force in the Alliance, and the party’s leader, Muhiddin Kabiri, faced strong pressure from members and supporters to run for president. By agreeing to throw his support behind a female presidential candidate, who is neither a member of the IRPT nor known as a very pious person, Kabiri risked alienating many of his constituencies. In order to prevent this from happening and to legitimate Bobonazarova in the eyes of the party’s conservative and patriarchal membership, Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, a prominent Islamic leader who had served as part of the IRPT’s senior leadership in the past, was made Bobonazarova’s proxy (doverennoyelitso).

Kabiri has also stressed that the party’s late founder and leader, Said Abdullo Nuri, had a high regard for Bobonazarova and even nominated her as Deputy Prosecutor General as part of a government quota awarded to the UTO after the civil war. She refused the nomination in 1997. On September 17, the IRPT’s congress endorsed Bobonazarova as a presidential candidate. Barzu Abdurazzokov, a prominent Tajik theater and film director, also accepted an offer to become Bobonazarova’s proxy during the congress.

The SDPT, whose leadership had worked closely with Bobonazarova in the past, will find it much less difficult to identify with her personality and political views. Zoyirov has urged the country’s civil society, social media activists, and members of the Tajik opposition in exile to support Bobonazarova.

In order to formally enter the presidential contest, Bobonazarova still needs to gather 210,000 signatures from her supporters before October 7. Although the country’s veteran leader President Rahmon has not yet announced whether he would seek re-election, few people in the country doubt that he will join the contest. Rahmon will almost certainly run for the office which he has held since 1993. The Democratic Party (DPT) and Agrarian Party (APT) have also nominated their candidates, while the Communist Party (CPT) and Socialist Party (SPT) have announced their intention to run for the presidency.

Rahmon will almost certainly win the upcoming elections and thus ensure another seven years in office for himself (the current constitution does not allow him to hold the office beyond 2020). During the contest, Bobonazarova is expected to be the second most popular candidate. However, she is not likely to pose any serious challenge to Rahmon. The country’s first ever female presidential candidate is virtually unknown to voters outside of major urban centers. During the seven weeks remaining before the elections, she is unlikely to win many votes without access to state-controlled television or to other advantages afforded to the incumbent president, such as the full control of the election administration, legions of loyal, state-employed voters, religious authorities, army conscripts, and the ability to blend official duties and campaign activity.

Besides, even if Bobonazarova had many voters to support her on election day, there would be no guarantee that these votes would count. Tajikistan has never held an election judged free of fair by western observers, and it is very difficult to gauge to what extent the election results reported by the authorities reflect the voters’ will.

A lawyer by education, Bobonazarova was among the founders of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT) in the late 1980s. After the DPT joined the IRPT in fighting against the “constitutional” government (headed by Rahmon after November 1992), Bobonazarova was arrested in 1993 and charged with treason and a coup attempt. She was later pardoned by Rahmon and, from 1996-2004, she served as an adviser with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Tajikistan. From 1996 to 2007, Bobonazarova headed Tajikistan’s branch of the Soros Foundation (now called Open Society Foundations), a philanthropic organization supporting democracy and human rights. After 2007, she led a Western-funded human rights NGO involved in monitoring prisons, fighting against torture, and defending the rights of women and labor migrants.

Read 4981 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Visit also





Joint Center Publications

Article S. Frederick Starr, "Why Central Asia Counts", Middle East Insights, November 6, 2017

Article Mamuka Tsereteli, “Russian Aggression in the Black Sea Cannot Go Unanswered” The Hill, September 11, 2017

Article Bilahari Kausikan, Fred Starr, and Yang Cheng, “Asia’s Game of Thrones, Central Asia: All Together Now.” The American Interest, June 16,2017

Article Svante E. Cornell “The Raucous Caucasus” The American Interest, May 2, 2017

Resource Page "Resources on Terrorism and Radical Islamism in Central Asia", Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, April 11, 2017.

Silk Road Monograph Nicklas Norling, Party Problems and Factionalism in Soviet Uzbekistan: Evidence from the Communist Party Archives, March 2017.

Oped Svante E. Cornell, "Russia: An Enabler of Jihad?", W. Martens Center for European Studies, January 16, 2017.

Book Svante E. Cornell, ed., The International Politics of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict: The Original 'Frozen Conflict' and European Security, Palgrave, 2017. 

Article Svante E. Cornell, The fallacy of ‘compartmentalisation’: the West and Russia from Ukraine to Syria, European View, Volume 15, Issue 1, June 2016.

Silk Road Paper Shirin Akiner, Kyrgyzstan 2010: Conflict and Context, July 2016. 

Silk Road Paper John C. K. Daly, Rush to Judgment: Western Media and the 2005 Andijan ViolenceMay 2016.

Silk Road Paper Jeffry Hartman, The May 2005 Andijan Uprising: What We KnowMay 2016.

Silk Road Paper Johanna Popjanevski, Retribution and the Rule of Law: The Politics of Justice in Georgia, June 2015.

Book S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell, eds., ·Putin's Grand Strategy: The Eurasian Union and its Discontents, Joint Center Monograph, September 2014.

The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.


Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst