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Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the (a) freedom and (b) fairness of the recent elections in Tajikistan. (105186)

The latest Presidential elections in Tajikistan took place on 6 November 2006. 170 international observers, from 32 countries, observed the voting and counting on behalf of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

We share the preliminary assessment of the ODIHR election observers. They concluded that democratic practices were not fully tested because of the absence of genuine competition, thus providing voters with only nominal choice. The ODIHR observers noted that significant improvements are required in both the legal framework and a number of technical aspects including a lack of transparency in the decision-making process of the highest level of election administration. On a more positive note, there was some recognition by ODIHR of the efficient administration of the election and some improvements in the candidates’ right to media access, participation of parties in local, but not national, electoral commissions and an improved framework for observers.

On 14 November 2006 the Finnish Presidency issued a statement on behalf of the EU which also reflected these concerns but welcomed the peaceful atmosphere in which the elections took place.

We strongly encourage the Tajik authorities to take this opportunity to work with ODIHR and the OSCE Centre in Dushanbe to address the areas of concern. Along with our EU partners, we stand ready to support the authorities in adopting the necessary reforms.