Tajikistan's presidential election may have taken place peacefully Wednesday, but international observers say the balloting lacked pluralism and genuine choice.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Thursday in a statement that extensive media coverage of the eventual winner, incumbent president Emomali Rakhmon, provided him with a significant advantage.
Rakhmon was declared the victor earlier Thursday, winning 83.6 percent of Wednesday's vote. His nearest rival garnered only five percent of the ballots, while his most significant potential rival, rights lawyer Oinihol Bobonazarova, was shut out of the race after failing to obtain the 210,000 signatures needed to register as a candidate.
Bobonazarova has complained that harassment from local authorities prevented her supporters from collecting all the signatures they needed.
Rakhmon's victory awards him a seven-year term in office, ending in 2020. He has been in power since 1992.
The OSCE said in Thursday's statement that being in power requires the Rakhmon administration to abide by its OSCE commitments and not taking advantage of incumbency. It said "greater genuine political pluralism will be critical" for Tajikistan to meet its democratic commitments.