This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.
COUNTRY PROFILE: TAJIKISTAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Overview: Tajikistan is a republic with three branches of government dominated by the executive branch. The current constitution was adopted in 1994 and amended significantly in 1999 and 2003. Political stability has improved since the civil war ended in 1997, but in order to gain control of certain areas, the central government has compromised and forged alliances among regional factions and clans, which retain substantial political influence. Particularly important is the rivalry between politicians of the northern regions and those of the south; the accumulated power of southerner President Imomali Rakhmonov’s clique has caused substantial resentment in the north, which had held a dominant position in the Soviet era. In 2006 Rakhmonov easily won a new seven-year term as president in an election that was boycotted by all major opposition parties. Bribery and nepotism are endemic in the political system.
Executive Branch: The president, who is directly elected to an unlimited number of seven-year terms, is the dominant figure in the government, serving as head of the government, called the Council of Ministers, and as chairman of the parliament (the Supreme Assembly, or Majlisi Oli). The president also appoints the prime minister and all members of the Council of Ministers, with parliamentary approval. In this geographically divided country, the ceremonial position of prime minister traditionally is held by a person from the north to nominally balance President Imomali Rakhmonov’s southern origin. In 2004 the executive branch fell further under the control of the governing party as appointments by Rakhmonov left the opposition with only 5 percent of major government positions. This event followed the expiration of the 1997 peace guarantee that the United Tajik Opposition (UPO) would occupy at least 30 percent of top government positions. Prior to the 2006 election, the Council of Ministers, which executes the decisions of the president, included two deputy prime ministers, 19 ministers, nine committee heads, and several ex officio members. After the election, Rakhmonov abolished 10 ministries and five state committees and reappointed Oqil Oqilov as prime minister. In 2003 a national referendum eliminated the constitutional two-term limitation on the current president, making Rakhmonov eligible to stand for re-election again in 2013. Rakhmonov also has accumulated substantial informal power through patronage.
Legislative Branch: The bicameral Supreme Assembly (Majlisi Oli) includes the 63-seat Assembly of Representatives (Majlisi Namoyandagon), which meets year-round, and the 33-seat National Assembly (Majlisi Milli), which meets at least twice per year. Until 2000 Tajikistan had a unicameral legislature. The members of the Assembly of Representatives are chosen by direct popular election to serve five-year terms. Of the 63 members of the Assembly of Representatives, 22 are elected by party, in proportion to the number of votes received by each party gaining at least 5 percent of total votes, and the remaining members are elected from single-member constituencies. Three-fourths of the National Assembly members are chosen by local council meetings of the four subnational jurisdictions, each of which is entitled to equal representation. The remaining members are appointed directly by the president. The pro-government People’s Democratic Party continued to control both houses of the parliament after the elections of 2005; that party gained 52 of the 63 seats in the Assembly of Representatives. In 2006 some 11 women sat in the Assembly of Representatives, and five sat in the National Assembly. Opposition factions in the Supreme Assembly have clashed with pro-government members over some issues.
Judicial Branch: The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The Supreme Court is the highest court. Other high courts include the Supreme Economic Court and the Constitutional Court, which decides questions of constitutionality. The president appoints the judges of these three courts, with the approval of the legislature. There is also a Military Court. The judges of all courts are appointed to 10-year terms.
Administrative Divisions: Tajikistan is divided into three main provinces: Soghd (formerly Leninobod), including all of the northwestern part of the country; Khatlon, including all of the southwest, and the autonomous province of Gorno–Badakhshan, which covers the entire sparsely populated eastern half of the country. Dushanbe, the capital, is administered separately.
Provincial and Local Government: The executive heads of the provinces are appointed by the president. Provincial councils are chosen by direct election. Each province is divided into districts (totaling 13) and towns. Districts are directly subordinate to the central government. Heads of district and town governments are appointed by the president with the approval of district and town councils, which are elected by popular vote.
Judicial and Legal System: The constitution, adopted in 1994 as the supreme law of Tajikistan, calls for an independent judiciary, but the executive branch and criminal groups have considerable influence on judicial functions. Bribery of judges, who are poorly paid and poorly trained, is commonplace. The court system has local, district, regional, and national levels, with each higher court serving as an appellate court for the level below. Appeals of court decisions are rare because the populace generally does not trust the judicial system. Constitutional guarantees to the right to an attorney and to a prompt and public trial often are ignored. The Soviet-era presumption of the guilt of the defendant remains in force. The procurator’s office conducts all criminal investigations. Trials are heard by juries except in cases of national security.
Electoral System: Suffrage is universal for citizens 18 years of age and older. A new election law passed in 2004 has received international criticism for its restrictive candidate registration requirements. Election requires an absolute majority of votes; if no candidate gains a majority, a second round is held between the top two vote getters. By controlling the Central Election Commission, the Rakhmonov regime has gained substantial influence over the registration of parties, the holding of referenda, and election procedures. In 1999 and 2003, referenda of dubious fairness made constitutional changes that strengthened Rakhmonov’s hold on power. International observers also found substantial irregularities in the conduct of the 1999 presidential election, in which only one opposition candidate was permitted to register, and the media were censored. Six parties participated in the 2000 and 2005 parliamentary elections, although in both cases observers reported state interference with the process and with opposition candidates’ access to the media. Rakhmonov easily won re-election in November 2006, gaining 79 percent of the vote against four little-known opponents; international monitors again found the election unfair. Three major opposition parties—the Democratic Party, the Islamic Rebirth Party, and the Social Democratic Party—boycotted the election.
Political Parties: 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 Rakhmonov on most issues, has lost support since 2000. The liberal, pro-market Democratic Party also has lost support. In 1997 Rakhmonov 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 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 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. 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.
Mass Media: For most of the population, radio and television are the most important sources of information. During the civil war (1992–97), the Rakhmonov government severely repressed both broadcast and print media; since that time, neither has recovered independent operations. In 2006 six government television stations and 18 private stations were in operation, but most of the latter depended on government transmission equipment. Although the law requires registration of independent broadcast outlets, some unlicensed stations have operated. Russian channels are received by satellite, and most regions receive one of the two national television channels. Radio stations broadcast in Persian, Russian, Tajik, and Uzbek. In 2000 there were 141 radios and 326 television sets per 1,000 population.
In the post-Soviet era, newspaper circulation has decreased sharply because of the high expense of materials and the poverty of the population. As a result of government pressure and refusal of license renewals, no opposition newspapers were operating in the run-up to the 2006 presidential election. Among the most-read newspapers are Jumhuriyat (Republic, in Tajik, thrice weekly), Khalk ovozi (Voice of the People, in Uzbek, thrice weekly), Kurer Tadzhikistana (Tajikistan Courier, in Russian, weekly), Sadoi mardum (Voice of the People, in Tajik, thrice weekly), and Tojikiston (Tajikistan, in Tajik, thrice weekly). In 2006 four domestic news agencies and one Russian agency (RIA Novosti) were operating.
Foreign Relations: Because of its isolated location, Tajikistan continues to rely chiefly on economic, military, and political support from Russia. In turn, Russia has used Tajikistan as a foothold in Central Asia. In 2005 Tajikistan owed Russia about US$300 million, and remittances from Tajik migrant workers in Russia were an important source of national income. With Russia’s approval, Tajikistan offered the United States use of air bases in the anti-Taliban campaign in Afghanistan in 2001–2. In the early 2000s, Tajikistan has sought closer economic ties with the United States, and U.S. military and humanitarian aid increased significantly. From the U.S. perspective, Tajikistan became more important as a base in Central Asia when neighboring Uzbekistan rejected reforms and cooperation with the United States in 2005; criticism of Rakhmonov’s one-sided re-election in 2006 was muted. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Tajikistan has signed a series of bilateral treaties with China, improving relations with that powerful neighbor. Iran was a key facilitator of the 1997 accord ending Tajikistan’s civil war. In the early 2000s, Iran, the traditional rival of Russia for influence in Tajikistan, has funded major projects such as the completion of the Sangtuda hydroelectric power plant. Following the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002, Tajikistan’s relations with that country have improved substantially. Relations with neighboring Uzbekistan, however, remain problematic. Key bilateral issues include the ostensible presence of terrorist groups in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan’s mining of the common border, and disputed allocation of Tajikistan’s water resources. Tajikistan’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan) has not provided the expected improvement of commercial or security conditions.
Membership in International Organizations: Tajikistan is a member of the following international organizations: the Asian Development Bank, Central Asian Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization (of the Commonwealth of Independent States), Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Economic Community, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Economic Cooperation Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Development Association, International Finance Corporation, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Organization for Migration, International Telecommunication Union, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Partnership for Peace (of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), Shanghai Cooperation Organization, United Nations, United Nations Committee on Trade and Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Universal Postal Union, World Customs Organization, World Federation of Trade Unions, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization (observer status).
Major International Treaties: Among the multilateral treaties to which Tajikistan is a signatory are the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Collective Security Treaty of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, Geneva Conventions (1949), Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. As of late 2006, Tajikistan had neither signed nor ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Armed Forces Overview: National security responsibilities are divided among the Ministry of Interior (overseeing the police, who maintain public order), defense (administering the armed forces), and security (running the intelligence agencies). Tajikistan’s army has benefited from the inclusion of substantial experienced units of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) forces that fought the government in the civil war. However, the army, which had about 7,600 troops in 2006, is poorly funded and maintained. The air force has about 800 troops, and the border guard, about 5,300. Some troops are trained by China, France, India, Russia, and the United States. The government’s 2007 budget included an increase of US$21 million for defense and law enforcement, significantly more than the increases in the preceding years.
Foreign Military Relations: Until 2005 Tajikistan depended heavily for border control on 12,000 troops of the Russian Federal Border Guard (which includes Tajikistani enlisted personnel); a 2004 treaty called for Tajikistani troops to gradually assume border enforcement duties, leaving Russian advisers in place beginning in 2005. For national defense, Tajikistan has depended on the forces of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division. The long-term presence of that division, which has been in Tajikistan throughout the post-Soviet era and played a major role in the civil war, was ratified in a bilateral defense treaty in 2004. In 2004 a total of 19,800 Russian troops, including border guard units, were in Tajikistan. The majority of the Russian troops in Tajikistan are stationed near Dushanbe, Qurghonteppa, and Kulob. A large number of Russian military advisers also work at the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan. In 2002 Tajikistan offered assistance to the U.S. campaign against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.
External Threat: Although Tajikistan is not threatened by conventional armed attack, its porous borders leave it vulnerable to an ongoing erosion of domestic law and order by illicit trafficking activity and to the presence of Islamic terrorist insurgents. Since the large-scale presence of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 2001, only small border incursions have occurred.
Defense Budget: In the early 2000s, Tajikistan has increased its defense budget significantly, although from a very low starting point. In 2003 the budget was US$34.6 million, in 2004 it was US$44.9 million, and in 2005 it increased to US$50.3 million.
Major Military Units: The Tajikistani army has two motorized rifle brigades, one mountain brigade, one artillery brigade, one airborne assault brigade, one airborne assault detachment, and one surface-to-air missile regiment. The airborne assault brigade is an elite special forces unit. The unit structure of the air force is unknown.
Major Military Equipment: The army has 44 main battle tanks, 34 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 29 armored personnel carriers, 12 pieces of towed artillery, 10 multiple rocket launchers, 9 mortars, and 20 surface-to-air missiles. The air force has four combat and 12 support helicopters.
Military Service: Males are eligible for conscription between the ages of 18 and 49. The standard tour of active duty is 24 months. Because bribery of conscription officials is common, a disproportionate number of poor individuals are forced into military service.
Paramilitary Forces: Tajikistan’s border guard force has 5,300 active-duty personnel. Pursuant to a 2004 treaty, active border enforcement shifted from Russian troops to the Tajikistani border guards in 2005, although a substantial number of Russian advisers remained.
Foreign Military Forces: In 2006 some 7,800 Russian troops were stationed in Tajikistan after a large-scale withdrawal of Russian border guards was completed in mid-2005. Although no U.S. troops were stationed in Tajikistan in 2006, U.S. operations in Afghanistan had flyover and refueling rights.
Military Forces Abroad: No Tajikistani forces are stationed outside Tajikistan.
Police: About 30,000 personnel, 1,000 of whom are women, are on active duty in the police force, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. Another 30,000 are classified as reserves. Because of the weakness of border forces, uniformed police are a backup security force for the frontiers. Police corruption and brutality are widespread; police have been implicated in many instances of human rights violations and involvement with criminal groups.
Internal Threat: Because of widespread poverty and high unemployment and the central government’s lack of control of some areas and national borders, Tajikistan is vulnerable to turmoil spreading from neighboring Afghanistan. Some remnants of the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are known to be in Tajikistan. Authorities monitor carefully the activities of the ostensibly peaceful Islamic extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has a large membership in Tajikistan. Sharply increased narcotics trafficking through Tajikistan has increased related criminal activity and narcotics addiction along the trafficking routes. Trafficking in women and children from Tajikistan has increased substantially in the early 2000s. Corruption is pervasive in most of Tajikistan’s institutions and is exacerbated by severe poverty.
Terrorism: Large numbers of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) are known to have maintained bases in Tajikistan between 1999 and 2001, and in 1999 terrorists took hostages in Kyrgyzstan after crossing the border from Tajikistan. Although the IMU was decimated in the Afghan war of 2001–2, some IMU forces are believed to remain in Tajikistan. Hizb ut-Tahrir, a nominally nonviolent Islamic extremist organization with a substantial base in Tajikistan, is believed to be a potential terrorist organization. In 2004 Tajikistan began joint antiterrorist exercises with Kyrgyzstan along the common border, which terrorist groups have penetrated in the early 2000s.
Human Rights: Economic and political conditions discourage the development of independent media. The approach of the 2005 parliamentary and 2006 presidential elections brought increased closures of independent and opposition newspapers and attacks on journalists. In 2003 the government blocked access to the only Internet Web site run by the political opposition. Constitutional guarantees of a fair trial are not always observed, and torture often is used against individuals accused of crimes. Pretrial detention often is lengthy, and prosecutors control court proceedings. Prisons are overcrowded, and the incidence of tuberculosis and malnutrition is high among inmates. Some activities of religious groups have been restricted by the requirement for registration with the State Committee on Religious Affairs. Islamic pilgrimages are restricted, and proselytizing groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered occasional persecution. Violence against women is frequent, and Tajikistan is a source and transit point for trafficking in women.
Index for Tajikistan:
Overview | Government
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