Tajikistan. According to Countryaah, the authoritarian regime under President Emomali Rachmon was challenged at the beginning of the year by a group of entrepreneurs who criticized corruption and inefficiency. The group was led by former Industry Minister Zaid Saidov, who in April announced the formation of a new political party, New Tajikistan.
A few weeks later, Saidov was arrested and charged with a host of crimes: fraud, bribery, abuse of position, blackmail, polygamy, rape and sex with minors. He denied and claimed that the regime struck against him because of the new party. When Saidov’s sympathizers demanded that he be released, they were sentenced to short prison terms. When the trial against Saidov began in October, he refused to stand on the grounds that his case had not received a fair trial.
Other regime opponents were also brought to trial. Two men were sentenced to 20 and 15 years in prison for membership in the militant Islamist group Jundallah. A journalist who criticized the authorities was sentenced to eleven years in prison for financial blackmail against a woman. He had previously been convicted of slander and was prohibited from working as a journalist.
During the year, the police arrested a number of students who drove a car to their lessons. According to a human rights organization, students have been forced in writing to stop driving or threatened to quit their studies. There have already been bans on mobile phones, jewelery and “daring” clothing in schools and universities, then on the grounds that many could not afford to get these things.
Prior to the November presidential election, there was a growing use of social media, which made many people independent of state-controlled information. The regime saw the danger with this and blocked unwanted websites during the year.
The authoritarian Rachmon, who ruled the country for over 20 years, had five candidates against him in the election. However, the real opposition candidate was not allowed to stand, probably because of his criticism of the system, even though the formal reason was the lack of signatures for registration. It was human rights activist Oinichol Bobonazarova, nominated by a coalition with the Social Democrats and the Islamic Renewal Party.
According to official figures, President Rachmon won with over 83% of the vote. After the election, the president appointed a new prime minister, Qohir Rasoulzoda, former governor of the Sughd province.
Despite the large margin of victory, Rachmon was able to count on social tensions in a country where about 50% of the population lives in poverty. Nearly half of the country’s GDP comes from just over a million Tajikistanis working abroad, mainly in the Russian Federation.