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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rakhmonov Expected to Win

APEmomali Rakhmonov casting his ballot with his son, Somoni, on Monday.
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Tajiks voted Monday in the country's second presidential election since a civil war in the 1990s, with incumbent Emomali Rakhmonov widely expected to win amid doubts about the fairness of the poll.

Some 3.2 million people were eligible to cast ballots in the election.

After voting at a Dushanbe polling station with two of his nine children, Rakhmonov rebuffed concerns voiced by opposition groups and by monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that the vote would not be transparent nor democratic. He said Tajikistan had to learn how to conduct fair elections.

"More than 98 percent of those living in our country are Muslim. We have a completely different culture," he told reporters.

"To say this election 100 percent meets [European] standards, this is absolutely incorrect. Still, over the past 15 years, there has been some result, compared with previous elections," he said.

International observers declared the 2003 parliamentary elections neither free nor fair, along with a series of constitutional changes that were enacted that could result in Rakhmonov staying in office until 2020.

The three most-established opposition parties are either boycotting the vote or refused to field candidates, accusing authorities of limiting access to the media and putting up artificial obstacles to campaigning. They include the Islamic Renaissance Party, Central Asia's only legal Islamic political party.

The Central Election Commission said as of 8 a.m. local time Monday that 19.4 percent eligible voters nationwide had voted.

Support for Rakhmonov, who is standing for another seven-year term, is undeniable. For many, what is most important is that the poor, mountainous nation is stable now in the wake of the 1992-1997 war that pitted Islamic forces against the Moscow-backed government, killed more than 30,000 people and displaced nearly 1 million.

Tajiks "may be poor but it's still better than it was in the war," Mukri Georgadze, 48, a Georgian wine seller and former journalist, said ahead of the vote. "Stable poverty is better than war."