The United States hopes the upcoming presidential election in the tightly controlled ex-Soviet state of Tajikistan will be free and fair, a senior U.S. State Department official said Friday.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard A. Boucher told reporters the Nov. 6 vote is an opportunity "for the election commission and for the government to show they can run free and fair elections."
He spoke after a meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, who is expected to win a new 7-year term by a landslide, as three leading opposition parties have refused to field candidates.
Opposition groups say Rakhmonov is not eligible to run for a third term. A 2003 referendum amended Tajikistan's constitution allowing presidents to serve two terms, instead of one, and Rakhmonov argues that his first term does not count because it was served under the previous constitution.
Rakhmonov has jailed several potential challengers accused of various criminal misdeeds, deepening opposition anger.
Boucher and Rakhmonov also discussed security issues and ways to curb drug-trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.
Since 2001, U.S. aircraft have been using Tajik airspace for Afghan-related missions. Tajikistan also hosts about 200 French troops and several aircraft that back NATO-led operations in Afghanistan.