President Emomali Rakhmonov has been in power in Tajikistan since 1997. During his tenure, he has shut down virtually all independent news media and jailed several leading political opponents. According to the latest State Department human rights report, corruption has also hampered democratic and social reform.
On other fronts, such as the war on terrorism, Tajikistan has been helpful by providing NATO with an airbase for carrying out military operations in Afghanistan. Tajikistan has also made progress in the fight against drug trafficking.
Earlier this month, the people of Tajikistan went to the polls. According to official results, Mr. Rakhmonov won with nearly eighty percent of the vote. Four little-known opponents all but endorsed him during the campaign. Tajik opposition parties boycotted the election, claiming it was rigged long ago. As a result, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or O-S-C-E, concluded that the Tajik presidential election was uncompetitive and failed to provide voters with a genuine choice.
In a statement, the O-S-C-E said, "The campaign was almost invisible, with media coverage concentrating on the incumbent in his role as president. In a welcome initiative all candidates were offered free airtime and print space in state media. They did not, however, use this opportunity to its full extent."
Observers of the Tajik election also cited serious shortcomings during polling, including widespread proxy voting, multiple voting, and identical signatures on voter lists. Despite training provided to officials, voting and counting procedures were often not followed and the turnout in places was improbably high.
Central Asia, says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is a region in transition. But the U.S. expects that countries like Tajikistan will work to meet international standards for elections. That includes the participation of the political opposition so that the people of Tajikistan have a genuine choice at the ballot box.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.