POLITICAL PARTIES IN TAJIKISTAN

POLITICAL PARTIES IN TAJIKISTAN

Ruling party: People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT) of Emomali Rahmon. Formally the Communist Party, it was renamed the Socialist Party and then renamed again the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and then was renamed yet again to the National Democratic Party before adopting its current name. The Democratic Party of Tajikistan is a secular nationalist party.

Political parties and leaders: Agrarian Party of Tajikistan or APT [leader: Amir Qaraqulov]; Communist Party of Tajikistan or CPT [leader: Shodi Shabdolov]; Democratic Party of Tajikistan [leader: Saidjafar Ismonov]; Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan or IRPT [leader: Muhiddin Kabiri]; Party of Economic Reform of Tajikistan or PERT [leader: Olimjon Boboev]; People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan or PDPT [leader: Emomali Rahmon]; Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan or SDPT [leader: Rahmatullo Zoyirov]; Socialist Party of Tajikistan or SPT [leader: Abduhalim Ghaforov]. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Political pressure groups and leaders: influential religious leader Akbar Turajonzoda; New Tajikistan party, unregistered [leader: Zayd Saidov]; opposition group Guruhi-24 (Group-24), unregistered [leader: Umarali Quvvatov]; presidential candidate of Union of Reformist Forces of Tajikistan Oynihol Bobonazarova, unregistered; Vatandor (Patriot) Movement [leader: Dodojon Atovulloev]; Youth Party of Tajikistan, unregistered [leader: Izzat Amon].

As long as Tajikistan was a Soviet republic, political power resided in the Communist Party of Tajikistan, not in the state. Until 1991 the party was an integral part of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), subordinate to the central party leadership. In the years before independence, several opposition parties appeared with various agendas. Since the civil war, the opposition's official participation has been limited severely, although some parties remain active abroad. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Opposition parties were banned until 1997. Four oppoistion parties participated in the 2005 election. They included the Islamic Renaissance Party, the Communist Party and the Socialist Democratic Party. The Communist Party is headed by Shodi Shabdolov. The Socialist Democratic Party is headed by Rahmatullo Zoirov.

Political Parties in Tajikistan in the 2000s

According to the U.S. Department of State: “Eight political parties, including the PDPT, were legally registered. Observers considered only three of these parties to be independent of the government. Opposition political parties had moderate popular support and faced scrutiny by the government. All senior members of President Rahmon’s government were PDPT members. Most members of the country’s 97-seat parliament were members of the PDPT, belonged to progovernment parties, or were PDPT-affiliated independents. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

In the early 2000s, independent political parties continued to exist, but their operations were circumscribed and their influence marginal. The governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gained strength as some opposition party leaders joined the government and others were disqualified from participation in elections. The Communist Party of Tajikistan, a nominal opposition party that has supported President Rahmon on most issues, has lost support since 2000. The liberal, pro-market Democratic Party also has lost support. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007**]

In 1997 Rahmon weakened his chief opposition emerging from the civil war, the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), by naming movement leader Akbar Turajonzoda a deputy prime minister. In the ensuing years, the UTO was eclipsed politically by its main component organization, the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP). **

In 2006 the IRP was the most influential opposition party in Tajikistan and the only religiously affiliated party represented in the national legislature of a Central Asian country. After the death of long-time IRP leader Said Abdullo Nuri in 2006, a possible split emerged from the struggle for party leadership. Some antigovernment sentiment has been channeled into radical Islamic organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is outlawed as a terrorist organization, rather than into conventional political parties. **

Harassment and Killing of the Opposition in Tajikistan

In 2003 the IRP lost its chief opposition issue as the ban on religious parties ended. Nevertheless, in 2006 parties still could not receive aid from religious institutions, and tension remained between the government and Islamic factions. In 2006 six parties, including one faction of the Democratic Party, were banned, and a total of eight parties were registered. In 2005 Mahmadruzi Iskandarov, head of the Democratic Party, received a long prison term for terrorism after being abducted from exile, and in 2006 his party was replaced on the official list by a government-backed splinter group, Vatan. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007]

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The government interfered in the attempts of political parties to organize and conduct their activities. There were two attacks against senior IRPT leaders during the year. On April 29, 2014 approximately 15 unknown assailants attacked IRPT deputy head and Member of Parliament Saidumar Husaini and other IRPT members at the IRPT regional office in Khorugh. The attackers chanted, “There is no place for the IRPT in the GBAO.” Husaini and one other IRPT member sustained slight injuries. Husaini told the media that the assailants were mainly employees of the GBAO regional administration, including local police. [Source: “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014: Tajikistan,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State \*\]

On June 10, unknown individuals assaulted IRPT Chair Muhiddin Kabiri during a trip to Kulob to meet with local residents. Approximately 15 men and women threw tomatoes and eggs at Kabiri, accusing the IRPT of provoking the civil war in the 1900s and seeking to destabilize the country. IRPT spokesperson Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda told the media that cars blocked the road so that Kabiri and other party members could not leave the scene of the incident. \*\

In March 2105, opposition leader, fugitive tycoon and opposition Group 24 founder Umarali Quvatov was mysteriously assassinated in Istanbul. Some opponents of President Emomali Rahmon who live abroad have suggested that Quvatov's killing was orchestrated by Tajik authorities. [Source: Radio Free Europe, August 28, 2015]

Communist Party of Tajikistan

During the 1920s, Tajik communist party membership increased substantially. But in the following decades, the percentage of Tajik membership in the Communist Party of Tajikistan rose and fell with the cycle of purges and revitalizations. Throughout the Soviet period, however, Russians retained dominant positions. For example, the top position of party first secretary was reserved for an individual of the titular ethnic group of the republic, but the powerful position of second secretary always belonged to a Russian or a member of another European nationality. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

In the mid-1980s, the Communist Party of Tajikistan had nearly 123,000 members, of whom about two-thirds represented urban regions, with subordinate provincial, district, and municipal organizations in all jurisdictions. The Communist Youth League (Komsomol), which provided most of the future party members, had more than 550,000 members in 1991. The end of the Soviet era witnessed a waning of interest in party membership, however, despite the privileges and opportunities the party could offer. By 1989 many districts were losing members much faster than new members could be recruited. *

In August 1991, the failure of the coup by hard-liners in Moscow against President Gorbachev left the Communist Party of Tajikistan even less popular and more vulnerable than it had been before. However, although it was suspended in 1991, the party in Tajikistan was able to retain its property during its suspension. Just before sanctions were imposed, the party changed the adjective in its name from communist to socialist . In December 1991, the party reassumed its original name and began a vigorous campaign to recapture its earlier monopoly of power. *

After the civil war, the communist party remained the country's largest party, although its membership was far smaller than it had been in the late Soviet era. In the early 1990s, the party rebuilt its organizational network, from the primary party organizations in the workplace to the countrywide leadership. Communist candidates did well in the legislative elections of 1995, although they did not win an outright majority.

Opposition Parties in the 1990s

The end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s saw the open establishment of opposition parties representing a variety of secular and religious views. In 1991 and 1992, these groups engaged in an increasingly bitter power struggle with those who wanted to preserve the old order in substance, if not in name. By the summer of 1992, the battle had escalated into an open civil war that would claim tens of thousands of lives. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

A branch of the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) was established in Tajikistan in 1990 with an initial membership of about 10,000. The Tajikikistan IRP was established as an open organization, although it was rumored to have existed underground since the late 1970s. The IRP received legal recognition as a political party in the changed political climate that existed after the 1991 Moscow coup attempt. Despite its links to the party of the same name with branches throughout the Soviet Union, the Tajikistan IRP focused explicitly on republic-level politics and national identity rather than supranational issues. When the antireformists gained power in December 1992, they again banned the IRP. At that point, the party claimed 20,000 members, but no impartial figures were available for either the size of its membership or the extent of its public support. After the civil war, the party changed its name to the Movement for Islamic Revival. *

Two other parties, the Democratic Party and Rastokhez (Rebirth), also were banned, with the result that no opposition party has had official sanction since early 1993. The Democratic Party, which has a secular, nationalist, and generally pro-Western agenda, was founded by intellectuals in 1990 and modeled on the contemporaneous parliamentary democratization movement in Moscow. In 1995 the party moved its headquarters from Tehran to Moscow. Although the government nominally lifted its ban on the Democratic Party in 1995, in practice the party remains powerless inside the republic. In early 1996, it joined several other parties in signing an agreement of reconciliation with the Dushanbe government. *

Like the Democratic Party, Rastokhez was founded in 1990 with substantial support from the intellectual community; its visibility as an opposition popular front made Rastokhez a scapegoat for the February 1990 demonstrations and riots in Dushanbe (see Transition to Post-Soviet Government). In 1992 Rastokhez, the Democratic Party, and another party, La"li Badakhshon, played an important role in the opposition movement that forced President Nabiyev to resign. The leadership of the much-weakened Rastokhez movement also made peace with the Dushanbe regime early in 1996. *

La"li Badakhshon (Ruby of Badakhshan) was a secularist, democratic group that was founded in 1991. The chief aim of the party, which represents mainly Pamiris in Gorno-Badakhshan , was greater autonomy for the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province. La"li Badakhshon joined with the other three opposition groups in the demonstrations of spring 1992. It supported the establishment of an Ismaili Pamir Republic. *

After the civil war started, several new political parties have functioned legally in Tajikistan. Some are organized around interest groups such as businessmen, some around powerful individuals such as former prime minister Abdumalik Abdullojanov. All of these parties lack the means to influence the political process, however. For instance, the most important of them, Abdullojanov's Popular Unity Party, was prevented by the government from mounting an effective campaign in the legislative elections of February 1995. *

Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan

The Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) is the Gharmi Tajik-dominated Islamic party. Known by several names during its decades-long existence, it has traditionally been the main opposition party. In the past it was known as the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), Islamic Rebirth Party, Islamic Renewal Party and Islamic Revival Party. The IRP was not able to gain official recognition until the end of 1991. It was the largest contributor to the opposition’s demonstrations in 1992 that preceded the civil war.

A branch of the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) was established in Tajikistan in 1990 with an initial membership of about 10,000. The Tajikikistan IRP was established as an open organization, although it was rumored to have existed underground since the late 1970s. The IRP received legal recognition as a political party in the changed political climate that existed after the 1991 Moscow coup attempt. Despite its links to the party of the same name with branches throughout the Soviet Union, the Tajikistan IRP focused explicitly on republic-level politics and national identity rather than supranational issues. When the antireformists gained power in December 1992, they again banned the IRP. At that point, the party claimed 20,000 members, but no impartial figures were available for either the size of its membership or the extent of its public support. After the civil war, the party changed its name to the Movement for Islamic Revival. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer wrote: The IRP was the only opposition entity able to survive the transition to civil war with any serious base of support. Most of the IRP-affiliated field commanders in the south were mullahs. The IRP was able to reach out to its network of local mullahs, each of whom could recruit their followers into militias; however, as regional loyalties had prevailed, aside from a few individuals, the mullahs of Kulob and Hisor supported the incumbent, or rather anti-opposition, side, which was to eventually take the name Popular Front. [Source: “Tajikistan: Political and Social History” by Kirill Nourzhanov and Christian Bleuer, Australia National University, 2013 ><]

IRP-dominated Movement for the Islamic Revival of Tajikistan and junior partners such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan existed during the 1990s civil war. The IRP had sponsors in Afghanistan. In the 2000s, the 11 seats in parliament not held by the governing party included two for the Islamic Revival Party, four for the government-supporting Communist Party and five by independents. The Islamic Revival Party said it could win at least 10 seats — if not a lot more — nationwide, if the voting was fair.

In the 2000s, the IRP was the most influential opposition party in Tajikistan and the only religiously affiliated party represented in the national legislature of a Central Asian country. In 2003 the IRP lost its chief opposition issue as the ban on religious parties ended. After the death of long-time IRP leader Said Abdullo Nuri in 2006, a possible split emerged from the struggle for party leadership. Some antigovernment sentiment has been channeled into radical Islamic organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is outlawed as a terrorist organization, rather than into conventional political parties. [Source: Library of Congress, 2007]

See Separate Article POLITICAL ISLAM AND ISLAMIC PARTIES IN TAJIKISTAN

Tajik Opposition Members Have Hard Time Finding Work

Bruce Pannier of Radio Free Europe wrote: According to the deputy leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, (SDPT) "help wanted" signs in Tajikistan should specify "opposition party members and their relatives need not apply." Shokirjon Hakim, who earned a law degree in Moscow, has been seeking employment for three years in his native Tajikistan. The search has been frustrating and fruitless and Hakim told Radio Free Europe's Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi, that he thinks he is facing discrimination because of his work in the SDPT. [Source: Bruce Pannier, Radio Free Europe, August 22, 2015 ^^^]

“Hakim said he has been searching for employment in government and nongovernment organizations. He listed some of them for Ozodi: the Institute of Philosophy, Politics and Law at Tajikistan's Academy of Sciences, the National University, Technical University, Commercial University, the Institute of Economics and Rights, the Slavic University, Tajikistan's branch of Russia's Lomonosov University, and other Russian-sponsored universities in Tajikistan. "When you're labeled opposition, they wouldn't give you work as a janitor," Hakim said. He added that his wife, who is a librarian by training, cannot find work either even though she "is not a member of any party and does not have any interest in this [politics]." ^^^

“Ozodi spoke with the deputy director of the Institute of Philosophy, Politics and Law, Khayriddin Idiev and asked about Hakim's situation. Idiev said, "I know Shokirjon well, earlier we worked together in this institute." Idiev said that, in the three months he has held his current position, he has not heard from Hakim. "Depending on the availability of places in this or that department, his request [for employment] would absolutely be reviewed. There are no problems here," he added. ^^^

“Idiev denied that there were any political motives behind the institute's hiring policies. But Hakim said he had spoken in early August with Deputy Prime Minister Marhabo Jabbori and other members of the government who "were surprised at my ordeals and said the situation should not have reached this point. Hakim said he had not heard from them since that conversation. ^^^

“Ozodi reported that Hakim is not the only member of an opposition party to encounter difficulties finding work in Tajikistan. SDPT chief Rahmatullo Zoirov makes a living practicing law outside Tajikistan. SDPT member Amniyati Abdulnazar, who worked for the Interior Ministry, has not been able to find work for five years, and Davlatsho Shohnusayriev, who worked for the UN, has also been without gainful employment for nearly as long. The party's head in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region, Alim Sherzamonov, a mathematics teacher, was forced to migrate to Russia to find work after he could not find a job in his home area.” ^^^

Islamic Party Banned, Given Deadline To Stop Activities

In August 2015, the Tajik Justice Ministry banned the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and gave the only officially registered Islamic party in the former Soviet Union 10 days to halt all activities. According to a statement issued by the ministry on August 28, the Islamic Renaissance Party cannot legally continue its activities because the Justice Ministry says the party does not have enough members to qualify as an officially registered party. The ministry said that all the party's branches in 58 cities and districts across Tajikistan have been closed. [Source: Radio Free Europe, August 28, 2015 <|>]

Radio Free Europe reported: “The statement adds that the IRPT would not be able to hold a scheduled party congress and that a temporary headquarters set up in a private home in Dushanbe was illegal. Party Chairman Muhiddin Kabiri, who has been outside Tajikistan since March, told Radio Free Europe on August 28 that the party's Supreme Political Council will discuss the situation in the nearest future and the results of that session will be made public. <|>

“In comments to Radio Free Europe, the party's deputy chairman, Saidumar Husaini, described the Justice Ministry's statement as "more pressure on the party by the authorities." "That is a real threat to the IRPT's activities," Husaini said, adding that the move comes "despite the fact that political parties in the country can be banned only by the Supreme Court." The Justice Ministry's announcement came a day after IRPT leaders told journalists in Dushanbe that the party would continue its political activities despite obstacles imposed by Tajik authorities, including the forced closure and sealing-off of its offices in the capital on August 24. <|>

“On August 27, Islamic Renaissance Party members and supporters were forced to relocate their planned press conference to a private residence in the capital after management at the Sheraton Dushanbe Hotel said they could not host the event, citing electricity problems. Once reporters were gathered at the impromptu headquarters, the party leadership demanded that the government allow the Islamic Renaissance Party to reopen its official Dushanbe office, which they claimed had been closed to prevent a party congress from being held on September 11. The congress was intended to elect new party leaders.

“The leadership called for the return of open political debate and suggested that Tajikistan's election system was not free or fair. Kabiri's colleagues have urged him not to return to Tajikistan from abroad, saying it was not safe and citing the mysterious assassination of another opposition leader, fugitive tycoon and opposition Group 24 founder Umarali Quvatov, in Istanbul in March. Some opponents of President Emomali Rahmon who live abroad have suggested that Quvatov's killing was orchestrated by Tajik authorities.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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