The country that just voted to allow its president to rule forever

More than 90 per cent of the Tajikistan population voted for presidential term limits to be scrapped

Gabriel Samuels
Wednesday 13 May 2020 12:24 BST
Emomali Rahmon, a 63-year-old former collective farm boss, has ruled Tajikistan since 1992
Emomali Rahmon, a 63-year-old former collective farm boss, has ruled Tajikistan since 1992 (Getty Images)

The people of Tajikistan have voted overwhelmingly to allow their authoritarian president to rule indefinitely.

94.5 per cent of the 4 million people who cast their votes in the referendum on Sunday supported amendments to the national constitution, including a provision to remove presidential term limits.

The former Soviet state has been ruled by president Emomali Rahmon, 63, since November 1992.

Tajiks vote in referendum seen as cementing president's power

The term limit amendment only applies to Rahmon, owing to the ‘Leader of the Nation’ status parliament accorded to him late last year.

The minimum age for Tajik presidential candidates is also being lowered to 30, paving the way for Rahmon’s 29-year-old son to stand in the 2020 election.

Referendum ballots only permitted a general ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option, removing the chance to vote for each constitutional amendment individually.

Tajikistan remains the poorest of the former USSR nations and ‘faith-based’ parties have been outlawed, despite the population being predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Voter Nazir Saidzoda told AFP: “Rahmon brought us peace, he ended the war, and he should rule the country for as long as he has the strength to.”

The government has been criticised by human rights campaigners in recent years for forcing young men to remove their beards and women to cast off their headscarves.

The autocrat Rahmon has been accused of disregarding religious freedoms, civil norms and political pluralism during his 24-year tenure.

In November 2012 the country banned Facebook to prevent 'mud and slander' being said by critics against Rahmon's regime.

The president came to power amid a brutal civil war which claimed 20,000 Tajik lives.

Previous constitutional referendums held in 1999 and 2003 also focussed on extending Rahmon’s stay in power.

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