Tajikistan’s President Appoints Son to Lucrative Government Post
Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon has appointed his son to head the country’s Customs Service, the president’s website reported today. Many have long believed Rakhmon is grooming the 26-year-old Rustam Emomali to be his successor; today’s announcement will certainly cement those views. Rakhmon held the first meeting of his new cabinet on November 30. The strongman, in his 21st year in power, dismissed the government earlier this month after winning a fourth term in a poll widely derided as farcical. Rakhmon regularly reshuffles senior leaders in a process that ensures few others gain significant power or build strong patronage networks.For almost three years, the younger Emomali had been deputy head of the Customs Service in charge of combatting smuggling. He has also served on the capital’s city council, worked at the State Committee for Investments and State Property Management and as deputy head of the national football federation, according to Asia-Plus. He is also a founder and part owner of Dushanbe’s Istiqlol Football Club. Control over customs is considered extremely lucrative throughout the region, as it gives access to revenue from smuggling, illicit imports and kickbacks. Tajikistan is a major transit route for Afghan narcotics and ranks 157 out of 176 in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index. The president’s old cabinet had been widely criticized for being corrupt, ineffective and nepotistic. The Emomali appointment does little to address those concerns. Moscow-based Fergana News called it “a case of modern-day nepotism.” Unfortunately for Emomali the son, the current constitution bars him from running for president until he turns 35, in 2022. The next election is in 2020, when the president will be 68. The same law also states that only a citizen younger than 65 can run for the country’s top post. But Rakhmon has a way of ushering in constitutional amendments that serve his interests; he altered a previous constitution that had forbidden him from running this year.