STATEMENT by the Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on monitoring the preparations for and holding of the presidential elections in the Republic of Tajikistan

Vladimir Norov

On 11 October 2020, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (hereinafter SCO), at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, performed the 54th Observer Mission by monitoring the preparations for and the holding of the presidential elections in the Republic of Tajikistan.

The Mission was headed by SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov.

The Mission included 16 accredited observers — representatives of SCO member states' legislative, executive and electoral bodies, research institutions, and diplomats, as well as SCO Secretariat officials.

The SCO Mission regards the invitation of international observers as an indication of the Republic of Tajikistan leaders' desire to ensure that the elections are open, transparent and democratic to the maximum degree.

1. The Mission's activities

In performing its functions, the Mission was guided by the SCO Regulations on the SCO Observer Mission at Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referendums, observing the principle of political neutrality, objectivity and non-interference in the internal affairs of states and in strict conformity with the national legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan.

The Mission held a number of meetings and conversations with chairpersons, secretaries and members of city, regional and district election commissions, voters, local observers, the media, and members of observer missions from international organisations and foreign states.

The host party has created the necessary conditions for the Mission to monitor the preparations for and the conduct of the electoral process. It has also provided exhaustive information on the election campaign, and on the accredited observers from political parties and the public of the Republic of Tajikistan, as well as international organisations and the media. The Mission's conclusions and inferences are based on its members' personal observations and factual materials collected before and during the election of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan.

2. Legislative framework for the elections

The legislative framework for the election of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan is based on the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Tajikistan On the Election of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan and other acts and regulations of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of Tajikistan (hereinafter Central Election Commission or CERC).

3. Innovations in the electoral legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan

The Mission deems as important the measures towards improving the national electoral legislation, adopted by the Republic of Tajikistan. For this purpose, it has introduced a number of amendments to the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Tajikistan On the Election of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan.

Over 167 CERC documents have been adopted as part of the work to bring it into conformity with the electoral legislation.

4. Using cutting-edge information and digital technologies

The Republic of Tajikistan is streamlining the election process based on the introduction of cutting-edge information and communications technologies.

Specifically, the CERC has used advanced information platforms and modern methods of collaboration with the media to ensure the transparency of the elections. The CERC press centre has been established to this end.

To cover its operations in a comprehensive way, the CERC has improved its website, where it posts all the necessary information on its activities and the stages of the election process.

A mobile app, Elections of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan 2020, has been created and put into effect. The app offers information content on the elections.

Online information exchanges between the CERC and single-mandate constituencies have been organised.

A Facebook account on the Election of the President of Tajikistan 2020 has been created. The content on this account is of information nature.

Along with notifications for the electorate, SMS messages were sent about the day of voting.

A plan of events has been drafted and implemented jointly with the Media Academy. It includes a workshop to discuss the use of social media in the election process and joint activities to cover the entire election process.

5. Candidates for President of the Republic of Tajikistan

Candidates for President of the Republic of Tajikistan were nominated in accordance with the election legislation of the country. Decisions on the nomination of the candidates for the post of President of the Republic of Tajikistan were submitted to

the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda within the established timeframe.

On 13 September 2020, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda registered five candidates for the post of President of the Republic of Tajikistan in accordance with the established procedure:

1) Rustam Barot Latifzadeh — from the Agrarian Party of Tajikistan;

2) Abduhalim Rozik Ghafforzoda — from the Socialist Party of Tajikistan;

3) Emomali Rahmon — from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan, the Youth Union of Tajikistan and the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan;

4) Rustam Rahmatzoda — from the Party of Economic Reforms of Tajikistan; and

5) Miroj Abdulloyev — from the Communist Party of Tajikistan.

The registered candidates enjoyed provided equal material, technical and financial conditions during the election campaign.

6. Election campaign

Under the election law of Tajikistan, following registration the candidates for the post of President were provided with equal conditions and were guaranteed equal access to the media, including on radio and television, for election campaigning on the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan.

Over 705,000 lists containing information on the procedure for taking part in the election of President of the Republic of Tajikistan were approved and printed.

At the same time, the Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, the Committee of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Dushanbe City Department of Youth Affairs and Sports prepared over 36 television spots that were broadcast by the country's television networks.

A series of programmes involving over 100 experts and academics were prepared on various election questions.

The Khovar National Information Agency of Tajikistan launched a special project, Presidential Elections 2020, which covered the election campaign and included articles and talks with members of the Central Election Commission and prominent academics on the importance and essence of the presidential election.

7. Conditions for voters with disabilities

The necessary conditions and opportunities were created in Tajikistan for the free and equal exercise of the constitutional rights by people with disabilities.

In order to help people with disabilities exercise their constitutional rights, the Central Election Commission and the Committee for Youth Affairs and Sports under

the Government of Tajikistan recruited and trained 10,000 volunteers to help register voters, provide information about the presidential election and help elderly voters and people with disabilities at polling stations. Volunteers also provided assistance to various international observer missions that monitored the presidential election in Tajikistan.

In particular:

— Special polling booths and ramps were installed at polling stations for wheelchair users and voters with locomotor impairments;

— Lists of physically challenged voters were compiled at polling stations;

— An instruction was adopted for district and neighbourhood commissions to guarantee the exercise of election rights by people with disabilities;

— In order to guarantee the right of accessibility for people with disabilities, the Central Election Commission of Tajikistan joined the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in March 2018;

— The Central Election Commission also established ties with public organisations of people with disabilities.

8. Preparations for the elections

During the election process, the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda carried out extensive work according to the approved calendar of the main preparations.

The Commission set up 3,375 poll stations across the Republic of Tajikistan, as well as 39 polling stations abroad in order to observe the voting rights of the Tajikistani nationals living in foreign countries.

Voting ballots were issued in four languages, Tajik, Uzbek, Russian and Kyrgyz. There were 4,943,289 eligible voters, not including nationals abroad.

Guidelines and instructions were prepared.

The Press Centre of the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda organised consistent publication of articles to clarify the election legislation to voters. Members and employees of the Central Election Commission were involved in the project, as well as legal scholars and qualified experts.

Arrangements were made with local executive authorities and self-governance bodies of towns and villages to provide election commissions with venues and the necessary conditions for their stable operation.

Cooperation was established with competent public agencies and public organisations to provide adequate conditions for holding the elections and observing public order.

The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda developed and approved Guidelines for Cooperation with Civil Society during the Presidential Elections in the Republic of Tajikistan, to ensure election transparency and

successful cooperation between the election commissions and civil society institutions during the presidential election.

The Commission identified areas of cooperation with local voluntary activity groups and the Public Association of People with Disabilities of Tajikistan, for the purpose of promoting the elections.

The Guidelines for Volunteers were developed and issued in 10,000 copies. The election process involved more than 10,000 volunteers.

In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission focused in particular on sanitary and epidemiological safety. Specifically, on election day, the measures taken included contactless body temperature checks for all persons entering polling stations and providing all members of election commissions and voters with personal protection equipment (face masks and gloves). A social distance of 1.5 m to 2 m was observed both outside and inside the polling stations.

9. Main conclusions

The Observer Mission implemented international monitoring in the city of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, cities and districts of republican importance (Gissar, Tursunzade, Shahrinav, Vahdat), as well as the Khatlon (the cities of Norak and Dangara) and Sogd (the cities of Khujand and Buston, and the Bobojon Gafur District) regions.

The Observer Mission was present during the preparations of voting stations before they were opened and also monitored the rubber stamping of stationary and portable ballot boxes.

On the election day, voting took place from 6 am to 8 pm local time. The counting of votes was held immediately after the end of the event.

During the period of their activities, the Observer Mission members visited 84 voting stations. The Observer Mission members chose voting stations to be observed on their own. There were no obstacles to Observer Mission members visiting this or that voting station.

The Observer Mission notes voters' active involvement and a high turnout, including of young people.

Election Commission members have ensured the necessary conditions for the voting procedure. On voter applications, they provided exhaustive explanations on all matters at issue.

The Observer Mission notes that the operation of voting stations was organised in conformity with the requirements of the election legislation of the Republic of Tajikistan.

The voting stations were being attended by observers from the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan, the Agrarian Party of Tajikistan, the Socialist Party of Tajikistan, the Economic Reform Party of Tajikistan, and the Youth Union of Tajikistan.

Observer Mission representatives were present at the opening and closure of voting stations, ballot counting, and the drafting of bulletins with the returns. No violations of the laws of the Republic of Tajikistan have been recorded during these procedures.

The Observer Mission received no proposals, criticism or complaints during the election process.

The election campaign events were held openly and were covered by the media in much detail in strict conformity with the laws of the Republic of Tajikistan. Equal conditions were created for the participants in the election process, regardless of their party affiliation or political views. All stages of the election campaign were covered in keeping with the effective laws and the candidates' programmes were published, an evidence of openness and transparency of the election campaign and the existence of rivalry.

The Observer Mission notes that the elections took place on a wide competitive basis, in an atmosphere of openness and transparency of the election campaign, with an active participation of civil society members, and under favourable conditions created for the citizens, who could make an independent and conscious choice.

The Observer Mission states that the elections of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan have been held in conformity with the effective laws of and the international commitments assumed by the Republic of Tajikistan.

The Observer Mission noted no violations of the national electoral legislation.

The Observer Mission recognises the elections of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan as open, free and legitimate.

The Observer Mission congratulates the people of Tajikistan with the completion of the elections and wishes them success in the further implementation of the course for the strengthening of independence, sovereignty, and national socioeconomic development.

Observer Mission of

the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

12 October 2020, Dushanbe