People in the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan have voted overwhelmingly to approve changes to the Constitution allowing the longtime authoritarian president to rule indefinitely, election officials said Monday. An initial count showed 94.5 per cent of voters had supported amendments that included a provision to scrap presidential term limits. Emomali Rakhmon, a 63-year-old former collective farm boss, has ruled Tajikistan since 1992. Although Rakhmon will now be able to run for office as many times as he wishes, another constitutional change ushered in by the referendum allows his eldest son and presumed heir to take over power.
Rahmon brought us peace, he ended the war, and he should rule the country for as long as he has the strength to.
Voter Nazir Saidzoda, 53
The referendum was held with only cursory international scrutiny. The former Soviet state has in recent months been the setting of an intense onslaught against fundamental political freedoms. Almost the entire leadership of the most popular opposition party has been tried over an alleged attempted coup and they are awaiting lengthy jail sentences. The Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, the only opposition party with any real following, was declared a terrorist organization following an alleged coup attempt in September.