Tajikistan votes on whether to empower president

Citizens of Tajikistan are voting in a referendum on measures likely to strengthen the political power of incumbent President Emomali Rahmon.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon walks in front of Tajik troops.

The people of Tajikistan started voting on Sunday in a referendum on whether to ban religion-based parties, lift the number of terms a president can serve in office and lower the age limit for presidential candidates.

There is a single question on the ballot form: "Do you support the amendments and additions to the constitution of the country?"

Banning religion-based parties

Incumbent President Emomali Rahmon has been planning to ban the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party since last year. If the referendum's results favour Rahmon, he will have the power to oust the most powerful opposition bloc from parliament.

Unlimited terms in office

Sunday's referendum asks voters to lift limits on the number of terms a president can serve in office. Currently, the president serves seven year terms and can only be re-elected once, although constitutional changes were previously passed allowing Rahmon stay in office until 2020.

Lowering the age limit

Presidential candidates must currently be a least 35 years old. The referendum proposes to lower this to 30 years old – a move that would legally allow Emomali Rahmon's son Rustam Emomali, 29, to run for president in 2020.

Rustam Emomali, eldest son of Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, attends a conference held by Tajikistan's soccer federation in Dushanbe, January 5, 2012.

Emomali Rahmon, during the early years of his presidency, faced a civil war in which up to 100,000 people died. He has been the president of Tajikistan since 1994 and was elected for his fourth consecutive term in a presidential election in 2013, winning more than three million votes – 83.92 percent of the total.

Tajikistan is one of the poorest countries in the region and relies heavily on Russia, with remittances from citizens working abroad – mainly in Russia – making up half of the country's GDP.

TRTWorld and agencies