It is official now: most voters arriving at the polling stations tomorrow to vote in Tajikistan’s presidential elections will have no idea that they have options other than the incumbent president. Media have done a great job in debunking the illusion that there multiple candidates in this year’s elections.
ASIA-Plus has interviewed people in Dushanbe, asking them which candidates they know of. Is anyone really surprised that Emomali Rahmon is the only candidate everyone recalls? What one can find surprising, however, is that although most people interviewed did not know of other candidates, they were still going to vote on the election day.
[The video is in Russian. Watch this video with English subtitles here].
Ozodagon has done a similar thing. Its journalists talked to people on the streets of Dushanbe, asking them which candidates they knew of and how many candidates were running for president. Again, Rahmon is the only candidate most people know of.
[The video is in Tajik. Watch this video with English subtitles here].
The Dushanbe mayor’s office has been busy making sure that the capital city’s residents know who to vote for. Thousands of people attended the “My President” event in Navruzgokh, the largest open-air event venue in the city, on November 4. The mayor set the tone for the event by announcing in his opening speech that “The capital chooses Emomali Rahmon. It was so, it is so, and it will remain so”:
[Also, see photos from the event here].
Rahmon’s huge posters and campaign materials are ubiquitous in the city. All other candidates are left with are boring Soviet-style posters filled with tiny text, hanging on bus stops and some buildings in the city.
While the two videos above focus on voter awareness in Dushanbe, things are no different in other parts of the country. Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has found [podcast in Tajik and Russian] that in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan province, too, Rahmon is the only candidate most people know. In the southern regions of Kulob (Kulyab) and Qurghonteppa (Kurgan-Tube), the authorities are in fierce competition over who will be more vocal in demonstrating their support for the incumbent president. An interesting photo set from Kulob can be seen here.
In Qurghonteppa, the authorities also staged a massive “My President” campaign extolling the incumbent:
The northern Sughd province has also joined in the campaign.
‘Beer Shop’ Theory of Why Rahmon Will Win
What is interesting is that there are still people (mostly on Facebook) who seriously believe that tomorrow’s vote can have an unexpected result. Here is my explanation for why this is not going to happen. When I run out of beer, I go to the nearest beer shop to buy more. If I arrive at the shop and find that there is only one beer I know of (let it be Carlsberg lager) and five other brands I have never heard of, it is most likely that I will end up stocking up on Carlsberg. I might choose to try a different beer on a different occasion, but I will most probably want to stick to the familiar stuff if I am buying supplies for the next seven years. President Rahmon will win the elections because he is that familiar Carlsberg lager in a shop full of exotic and unknown beer brands.