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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Probe: Tajik Polls Flawed

The Tajik elections last weekend were marred by a climate of fear and flagrant fraud with widespread intimidation, stuffing of ballot boxes and multiple voting, the independent group Human Rights Watch/Helsinki said Wednesday.

A report by the group said supporters and observers of Tajik leader Emomali Rakhmonov, who was declared the winner with 60 percent of the vote, intimidated voters, often accompanying them into voting booths. The report also blamed electoral commissioners for a lack of control over ballot counting.

Residents of the southern region of Khatlon, many of them recently returned refugees who fled in 1992 when Rakhmonov came to power, said they were afraid of being beaten or killed if they did not vote for Rakhmonov or abstained, the report said.

Some villages of returning refugees told Human Rights Watch/Helsinki that Rakhmonov's supporters threatened that they would all be killed if anyone was found to have voted for his rival in the presidential race, Abdulmalik Abdulladjanov. Figures showed 99.5 percent of voters in Khatlon region voted for Rakhmonov, the report said.

The report comes after allegations of fraud and intimidation from Abdulladjanov, who according to the government-run Central Elections Commission won only 35 percent of the vote. Abdulladjanov's campaign headquarters claimed at least a third of Rakhmonov's votes were falsified.

Hozhkhadar Khalima, a spokeswoman at the Tajik Embassy in Moscow, said there had been no official reaction to the Helsinki report and she could not comment until she had seen it.

"Independent observers from Turkey, Pakistan and the Commonwealth of Independent States found the elections were conducted on a democratic basis and nothing untoward had occurred," she said.

A team of Russian observers in Tajikistan found the elections to be "within democratic norms with no great infringements," according to Viktor Zotin, deputy director of the Third Asian department at Russia's Foreign Ministry.

But Human Rights Watch/Helsinki claimed that the official observers did not have a chance to make a proper assessment of the election as they "were whisked through polling stations, accompanied by government officials and television cameras."

The Council on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations refused to send observers to Tajikistan.