TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Polling opened in the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan in a presidential election in which incumbent Emomali Rahmon is set to win a new seven-year term.
Voters headed to polling stations on Wednesday morning in the capital Dushanbe.
The five candidates standing against Rahmon are virtual unknowns even inside the country, with next to no chance of victory.
Rahmon, who has increased the number and length of his terms by revising the constitution through a referendum, won 79 percent of the vote in the previous election in 2006.
His next term must be his last, according to the constitution, Al Jazeera reported.
A turnout of at least 50 percent is required to make the election valid. Polls close at 8pm (15:00 GMT), and first official results are expected early on Thursday.
The potentially most significant rival candidate, female rights lawyer Oinikhol Bobonazarova of the moderate opposition Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, was unable to stand after narrowly failing to muster the signatures required to register her candidacy.
Bobonazarova gathered only 202,000 of the 210,000 signatures required, which equates to five percent of the electorate, a shortfall her party blamed on harassment from local authorities on its activists during the signature campaign.
Her party’s spokesman confirmed that the Islamic Revival Party would not be taking part in the polls and would give its estimate after election day.
Another main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, said it was boycotting the elections due to “violations of the constitution, organised falsifications and a lack of democracy and transparency.”
The polls will be monitored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Critics say Rakhmon, 61, faces mounting social tension in the Muslim state where about half of the eight million population live in poverty.
More than one million work abroad, sending money home to their families.
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