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DUSHANBE/MOSCOW, September 21 (RIA Novosti) – Tajikistan’s strongman leader who has iron-fistedly ruled the impoverished ex-Soviet nation for almost two decades was fielded for reelection on Saturday by a political youth group.
The Union of Tajik Youth has unanimously voted to name Emomali Rakhmon as its candidate at the Nov. 6 election.
The 60-year-old former collective farm manager and minor Communist functionary has already served three terms as president of the war-scarred, mountainous Central Asian nation of nearly 8 million for almost 20 years.
In 1997, he brokered a deal with secular and Islamist opposition that ended Tajikistan’s civil war that began in 1992 and claimed tens of thousands of lives.
He won the previous election in 2006 with 79.3 percent of the vote that was criticized by international observers as unfair.
Critics accuse Rakhmon of cracking down on opponents and independent media and driving key opposition leaders out of the country or jailing them on trumped-up charges.
In late July, a UN human rights watchdog criticized Rakhmon’s government, citing "reports of politically-motivated harassment of opposition political leaders.”
Tajikistan borders Afghanistan and hosts a Russian military base with some 7,000 troops – Moscow’s largest ground force contingent deployed abroad.
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