The concept of term limits seems like a contradiction in terms when it comes to Tajikistan. The Central Asian state’s constitution specifies that the president can serve only two consecutive terms. Yet the incumbent, Imomali Rahmon, has been in office since 1994, and is widely expected to secure another seven-year term when a presidential vote is held in November.
A referendum held in 2003 gives Rahmon the wiggle room needed to keep a tight grip on the presidency. That vote sought to modify some 60 articles in the 1994 constitution. Voters had a simple choice – either yes or no – for the whole package, which included measures to drop free health care and higher education. Buried in the package of amendments was a provision allowing the president to stand for a second consecutive term. In 1999, a referendum had already extended his term from five to seven years.
The measure passed with 93 percent of voters in favor, according to the Central Election Committee. The OSCE later said it had “concerns” about the vote’s transparency; and the US government said the process did not meet international standards.
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Konstantin Parshin is a freelance writer based in Tajikistan.