‘Politics is a Men-Only Game': Female Candidate Quits Presidential Race in Tajikistan

Those who celebrated the nomination of the first ever female presidential candidate in Tajikistan woke up to a sad news on October 11. Oynikhol Bobonazarova who was described as “the only serious opposition candidate for the November [6] election” has failed to register. Despite the support from the country's two main opposition parties, Bobonazarova could not gather 210,000 signatures needed to enter the presidential race. Talking to media this morning, she blamed the government for this failure, claiming that the “whole state machine” had been mobilized against her.

‘Real tragedy’

Given all the buzz sparked by Bobonazarova's entry into the presidential contest this September, it is not surprising that her unexpected departure from the race has generated another buzz in social media. Many netizens are genuinely saddened by this turn of events. Tomiris, who had praised [ru] the female candidate's presidential bid, tweeted [ru]:

#Bobonazarova does not participate in the elections. This is a real tragedy for the country! #Tajikistan

Uguloy Mukhtorova suggested that without Bobonazarova, presidential elections are now “meaningless” [en, ru]:

Meaningless election! http://t.co/kvrHlwDEYN Oinikhol Bobonazarova is out of the electoral competition.

Bachai Sako had a similar opinion [tj]:

Unfortunately, as Bobonazarova leaves, the “intrigue” [puzzle] of the election also leaves.

Tomiris comes back, however, saying that Bobonazarova's attempt to run for president was important in itself [ru]:

On the other hand, she made an attempt at least. Someone had to make an attempt. #Tajikistan

On her blog, Tomiris has [ru] more to say about the implications of the female candidate's departure from the contest:

Я очень хотела, чтобы Ойнихол Бобоназарова участвовала в выборах. Я знала, что у нее не было ни малейшего шанса на победу. Но иногда само участие это уже само по себе победа.

Таджикистан так и не отважился на первую женщину кандидата в президенты. Это поражение для всех женщин. Это еще одно подтверждение тому, что всем в нашей стране заправляют мужчины. Грустно. Мечта так и не осуществилась. Покойся в мире, мечта.

I was eager to see Oinikhol Bobonazarova participating in the election. I knew she did not have a slightest chance to win. But participation is sometimes a victory in itself.

Tajikistan has not had the courage to have its first ever female presidential hopeful. This is a defeat for all women. This re-emphasizes the fact that men are in charge of everything in our country. It is sad. The dream has not come true. Rest in peace dream.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova at a press conference where she announced that she failed to collect the required number of signatures. Screen capture from a YouTube video uploaded on October 11, 2013, by Kayumars Ato.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova at a press conference where she announced that she failed to collect the required number of signatures. Screen capture from a YouTube video uploaded on October 11, 2013, by Kayumars Ato.

Bleak future?

On Platforma, the largest public group on Facebook dedicated to discussion of politics in Tajikistan, many participants warned of a bleak future for the country after the withdrawal of the only genuine challenger of the incumbent president.

Bejan Mahmud wrote [ru]:

“Поздравляю” гражданина Рахмона с победой на выборах. Если вы понимаете о чем я.

I would like to “congratulate” [Emomali] Rahmon [incumbent president] on his victory in elections. If you know what I mean.

During the forthcoming elections, Rahmon is expected to win another seven-year term in office by a landslide. Although he has recently been ridiculed by some Tajikistani Facebook users, he also appears to have support from some netizens in the country.

“Umniy Biznes” [Smart Business] announced [ru]:

Потеряна последняя надежда на мирные перемены в Таджикистане…

The last hope for peaceful change in Tajikistan is lost…

And “Moderator Platformy” [Platforma Moderator] posted [ru]:

Еще 7 лет разрухи, беззакония, стыда и спада всех отраслей жизни? За что нам такое наказание?

Another seven years of destruction, lawlessness, shame, and degradation in all spheres? What have we done to deserve this punishment?

In the comments section on the ASIA-Plus news website, many readers had similar opinions. For instance, “Klon” [Clone] wrote [ru]:

Жаль конечно, я подумал было и до конца верил, что она пробьется, ведь женщина, но увы, все палки в колеса. Так обиднь за народ свой, аж ком в горле, к сожалению, снова придется жить в нищите и беззаконности, за что? Когда же придет судный день, когда, для тех, кто грабит и унижает мой народ :-(

It is a pity. I thought for some time – and I believed till the end – that she [Bobonazarova] would make it, because she is a woman. Alas, [the authorities have prevented her from running]. I have so much pity for our people that I want to cry. Unfortunately, we will have to live in abysmal poverty and lawlessness again. Why? When will the judgement day finally arrive for those who rob and humiliate my people ? :-(

Boycott the elections?

Aware of the fact that the outcome of the November 6 vote is foretold, some netizens say they will boycott the election. A person writing under the alias “Izbiratel'” [Voter] on ASIA-Plus announced [ru]:

Очень плохие новости АП. Я гражданин РТ ОБЯВЛЯЮ БОЙКОТ этим выборам, я не пойду голосовать, так как за не кого. Я уговорю всех родственников и друзей не ходить на выборы. Я считаю эти выборы и их результат ( который мы уже все знаем) нелегитимными. Для меня и моих детей нет будущего в этой стране. Собираю чемоданы.

This is a very bad news. I, a citizen of [Tajikistan], announce my intention to BOYCOTT this election. I will not cast my vote, because there is nobody to vote for. I will convince all my relatives and friends not to cast their votes too. I consider this election and its outcome (which we all know already) illegitimate. There is no future in this country for myself and my children. I am packing up.

Daler Boy posted this image on Platforma. It reads, "I boycott these elections". Image is used with permission.

Daler Boy posted this image on Platforma. It reads, “I boycott these elections”. Image is used with permission.

Both on Facebook and on news forums, many Tajikistanis said they intended to boycott the vote. Yet some netizens suggest that boycotting the election will not make much difference. Zarrina wrote [ru], for example:

Мне кажется, что даже если не идти голосовать, то наши бюллетени все рано заполнят в пользу Рахмона. А если идти голосовать, то не за кого. Тупик. Остается одно, – уезжать самим и отправлять подальше своих детей отсюда.

I think that even if we do not cast our votes, the ballots will still be filled in in favor of Rahmon. And if we do decide to vote, there is nobody to vote for. [It is a] deadlock. Only one option is left – [which is] to leave the country and to send our children somewhere far from here.

And for some netizens, Bobonazarova's departure from the race signaled that politics remains a male domain in Tajikistan. Commenting on Tomiris's blog, Jakhongir wrote [en, ru]:

Welcome back to reality как у нас говорят. Политика это игра только для мужчин.

Welcome back to reality as they say here. Politics is a men-only game.

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