Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Voters in the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan are set to re-elect for a fourth time Emomali Rakhmon, who has been in power since 1994.
Following an on old script, the presidential election saw five candidates run. However, the four who are challenging the incumbent were rarely seen on the campaign trail.
This is an established practice in Central Asian nations, which are almost all dominated by family dynasties and ruling oligarchies of industrialists and businessmen of various kind.
The president's main rival, rights lawyer Oinikhol Bobonazarova, was unable to stand after narrowly failing to muster the 210,000 signatures required to register her candidacy.
Her party, the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, gathered only 202,000, blaming local authorities for harassing its activists during the signature campaign in order to prevent them from getting the necessary number.
Another opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, announced for its part that it was boycotting the elections due to "violations of the constitution, organised falsifications and a lack of democracy and transparency."
About 4 million voters are set to cast their ballot in a country of 8 million, almost half of whom are under 18.
Located at the foot of the Pamir Mountains, Tajikistan shares borders with China and Afghanistan, and is strategically important, especially as US troops prepare to leave Afghanistan.
Given its widespread poverty and chronic lack of energy, many Tajiks have been forced to emigrate, mostly to Russia, for work.