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Tajikistan - Politics

Kakhar Makhkamov30 Nov 199031 Aug 1991
Kadreddin Aslonovich Aslonov31 Aug 199123 Sep 1991
Rakhmon Nabiyevich Nabiyev23 Sep 199106 Oct 1992
Akbarsho Iskandarovich Iskandarov [acting]05 Oct 199102 Dec 1991
Rakhmon Nabiyevich Nabiyev02 Dec 199107 Sep 1992
Akbarsho Iskandarovich Iskandarov [acting]07 Sep 199219 Nov 1992
Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmonov20 Nov 199216 Nov 1994
Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmonov16 Nov 1994 16 Nov 1999
Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmonov16 Nov 1999 16 Nov 2006
Emomali Sharipovich Rahmon (Rakhmonov)16 Nov 2006 16 Nov 2013
Emomali Sharipovich Rahmon (Rakhmonov) 16 Nov 2013 xx xx 2020?
Emomali Rustamxx xxx 2020? xx xx 20??
Emomali Sharipovich Rakhmonov changed his name to
Emomali Rakhmon on 21 Mar 2007.

Tajikistan's politics are dominated by the president and his party. The constitutional checks and balances on executive power are rarely exercised and there is no true political plurality. Tajikistan remains in the hands of a largely authoritarian government, although it has established some nominally democratic structures. The Government's narrow base of support limits its ability to control the entire territory of the country. The Government of President Emomali Rahmonov, which consists largely of natives of the Kulyab/Kulob region, continues to dominate the State, even though some Kulobis were removed from senior positions in 1998 and opposition members were taken into Government. Some regions of the country remain effectively outside the Government's control, and government control in other areas exists only by day, or at the sufferance of local opposition commanders.

Corruption and unemployment are widespread in impoverished Tajikistan -- the poorest country in Central Asia -- where the government is also criticized for suppressing dissent and restricting citizens' rights and freedoms.

Political violence in Tajikistan is generally rare and isolated. The security situation has stabilized significantly since the Civil War ended in 1997. All factions signed a peace agreement, and the government incorporated members of the opposition into a multi-party system – although President Rahmon has since steadily removed opposition figures from government to consolidate his power. The Tajik government has worked to minimize the impact of political discord on foreign investors. With the civil war a recent memory, the people of Tajikistan are keen to maintain peace, a factor sometimes adduced to explain the population’s acceptance of the government’s egregious corruption.

There were no terrorist attacks in Central Asia in 2019, unless one accepts the Tajik government’s widely discredited account of a November 6, 2019, attack on its southwestern Ishkobod border post near Afghanistan. Tajik officials say militants from the extremist Islamic State (IS) terrorist group crossed from Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province into Tajikistan specifically to carry out acts of terror. IS later claimed responsibility for the attack that left at least one Tajik policeman and border guard dead (though later reports claimed at least five more border guards were killed) as well as 15 of the 20 attackers. Information that subsequently emerged, such as the fact that women and children had participated in the attack, cast much doubt on an IS link. But for the many parties who see militants behind practically every rock on the Afghan side of the border, the Tajik government’s version of events just proved what they have been warning about.

The vast majority of people in Tajikistan are deeply disaffected, and have lost all confidence that the Government could turn the economy around. There is nothing new about the central government having difficulty projecting its authority outside Dushanbe. Clans in the outlying areas have always been able to resist the influence of the central government. There also does not appear to be an immediate threat to President Rahmon's government: each of the regions is remote; the clans are not united by a shared set of principles or goals; the major population centers - Dushanbe and Khujand - are well under control.

However, incidents of violence serve to underscore the perception that the influence of President Rahmon's government does not extend far beyond Dushanbe and a few other population centers. President Rahmon may have effectively consolidated his power in Dushanbe since his 2006 reelection, but recent events show the weakness of central government authority in the provinces, and Rahmon's inability to be an effective intermediary between regional clans.

Young people do not understand their role in the country's future nor do they have an interest in civil society, a concept understood only by the elite in Dushanbe and Khujand. Several issues undermine civil society development. First, education is collapsing, literacy is falling, TV and radio provide no useful information to citizens. Second, poverty is so severe people can't afford newspapers. Third, there are few outlets for building institutional change. Students who study abroad find no open doors when they return; the establishment is not interested in their ideas or changing the status quo.

The political opposition has been neutralized and ineffective; people choose to voice their opposition by leaving for Russia or elsewhere; fears of reigniting the tension that caused the civil war remain a disincentive to publicly expressing dissent. The degree and tone of public criticism is sharper than in previous years, and unlike in the past, the criticism is often directed at President Rahmon. It is unlikely, however, that Tajiks will soon translate their discontent into a grassroots movement for change. Labor migration serves both as an economic lifeline and a political safety valve for the country's poorest communities. Similarly, while young Tajiks continue to flock to mosques, religion is unlikely to become a force for political change in the next year. Rivalries among Tajikistan's political elite are more likely to cause instability in the near term than popular discontent. Part of the country's stability is based on the perception that the government maintains tight control over the population. If this perception seriously weakens, there is a chance for popular dissatisfaction to turn ugly.



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