Tajik President on course for fifth term

DUSHANBE: Tajikistan’s Russian-allied President Imomali Rakhmon looks sure to secure a fifth term in office in Sunday’s election as his four competitors’ campaigns admit they do not expect many votes.
However, the presidential poll may attract more attention this time after recent elections in two other ex-Soviet republics – Belarus and Kyrgyzstan – sparked protests, adding to a belt of instability around Russia. Rakhmon, 68, has run the Persian-speaking nation of 9.5 million people since 1992, a period including a civil war. He has gradually strengthened his grip and a 2016 constitutional reform removed a limit on the number of terms he could serve.
Polling stations opened with the national anthem played through loudspeakers, followed by a selection of patriotic songs. Staff checked voters’ temperature on entry and wore both face masks and shields. At one polling station shown in a state television news report, staff could be seen wearing full hazmat suits. According to the central election commission, 44.6% of voters had already cast their ballots by noon.
Many in the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation expect Rakhmon, who has nine children, to push for his son Rustam Emomali to succeed him. Emomali is both mayor of the capital city, Dushanbe, and speaker of the upper house of parliament. All four competitors are members of the docile lower house of parliament and have avoided criticising Rakhmon, whose official title is “Founder of Peace and National Unity Leader of the Nation.”–Agencies