By RFE RL
(RFE/RL)– Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who holds the dubious distinction of being the only post-Soviet autocrat in power longer than Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has been sworn in for his fifth term in office.
The October 30 inauguration ceremony took place at the Palace of the Nation in the capital, Dushanbe.
After the ceremony, Rahmon attended a parade of 7,000 military personnel and officers of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, Anti-Corruption Agency, National Guard, Interior Ministry, and students of military schools.
Rahmon also signed a decree to pardon 378 prisoners based on the “principles of humanity and compassion, concern for families, children, and young people.”
The names of those pardoned were not immediately known.
In power since 1992, Rahmon has won four consecutive presidential elections, none of which were deemed free or fair by Western monitors.
The 68-year-old ran against four little-known candidates that represent pro-government parties in the country’s rubber-stamp parliament. They are widely seen as little more than a facade to give the vote the appearance of competition.
The election was the first since Rahmon’s most influential political rival, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), was outlawed.
The Supreme Court banned the IRPT as a “terrorist” organization in 2015. Many of the party leaders and officials have been imprisoned, while others fled the country amid a clampdown.
The Social Democratic Party, the only genuine political opposition group inside the country, boycotted the election.
Rahmon is portrayed by state media and his supporters as a figure who has brought stability to the country following a civil war during the 1990s.
Rahmon’s nomination in late August ended speculation that he might step aside to allow his eldest son, Rustam Emomali, to run for office.
In April, Emomali, 32, was made the speaker of the upper house of parliament, a role that positions him to take over for his father if he is unable to fulfill his duties.
Emomali also continues to hold the lucrative position of Dushanbe mayor.
Speculation about Emomali’s succession initially began in 2016, when Tajikistan amended its constitution to lower the age threshold for presidential candidates from 35 years to 30 years.
The move was seen as paving the way for Emomali to run for president.
The amendments also gave Rahmon the exclusive right to run for office an unlimited number of times.
Further securing his dominant position in the country, parliament gave Rahmon the title of “leader of the nation” in December 2015, which grants him lifelong immunity from prosecution.
In March, Tajikistan held parliamentary polls that produced another rubber-stamp legislature dominated by Rahmon’s People’s Democratic Party.