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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 03:59 GMT
Tajik president wins third term
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov
Emomali Rakhmonov has already been in power for 14 years
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov has won a third term in office, in an election which international observers say was neither free nor fair.

The election commission said Mr Rakhmonov won more than 76% of the vote, with his closest rival winning just 7%.

The country's three main opposition parties had either boycotted the vote or refused to field candidates.

But Mr Rakhmonov has rebuffed criticism over the poll.

He told reporters on Monday that his country had a completely different culture to that of the West, and said this difference had to be taken into account.

"But we are developing," he said. "We have started this process, and naturally it is not without problems."

Mr Rakhmonov's win was largely considered a foregone conclusion.

A man walks past a poster of Emomali Rakhmonov  in Dushanbe, 1st Nov
Emomali Rakhmonov's presence looms large in Tajikistan
No opponents directly criticised the 54-year-old leader during campaigning, fuelling suspicions that at least some of them were chosen by the authorities.

Western observers told Reuters news agency that they had noted a number of irregularities in Monday's poll, including ballot stuffing and identical signatures on some ballot papers.

Different sources have given Mr Rakhmonov between 76% and 79% of the vote - which is down from the previous election in 1999, when he won 96% of the vote.

"The results were probably falsified to show progress for democracy," a Western diplomat told Reuters.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is due to give its assessment of the election later on Tuesday.

Widespread support

Mr Rakhmonov is a former communist official who has been Tajikistan's head of state for the last 14 years.

He is known for his hardline policies, and has already courted controversy by changing the constitution, theoretically allowing him to stay in power until 2020.

But despite this, he undeniably retains a lot of public support.

Tajikistan is still very poor, but many people remain thankful they no longer have to face the civil war of the 1990s, which killed more than 50,000 and caused more than 10% of the population to flee the country.

"Rakhmonov has done so much to make things better," said 43-year-old fruit seller Sakhobat before the poll.

"We had a war here and it ruined everything," she told the Associated Press. "We're still poor, but if you want to work, you can find something to do."




SEE ALSO
Q&A: Tajik election
03 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Tajikistan
29 Oct 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Tajikistan
21 Aug 06 |  Country profiles



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