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Tajik Leader Rejects Criticism Of Election

November 6, 2006 -- President Imomali Rakhmonov defended the conduct of Tajikistan's presidential election as he cast his vote today.

Rakhmonov, who is seeking another seven-year term, admitted the election does not meet the standards of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

But he said there was no country in the world that "100 percent fulfills the requirements and standards of the OSCE. This is a question of choice, the right of the people, not a choice of political parties or movements. It is the people who decide, it is the right of the people. Nobody has the right to judge or assess any country."

The OSCE, whose observers are monitoring the vote, has said it had not observed any signs of a "competitive campaign."

There is little doubt Rakhmonov will win. None of the other four candidates have been critical of the Tajik leader.

Rakhmonov was first elected president in 1994 and won a second presidential term in 1999. In 2003, a referendum enabled him to run for another two consecutive seven-year terms.

Tajikistan has never held an election judged free and fair by international observers.

(RFE/RL 06.xi.06)

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