First Tajik woman to bid for president quits race

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The first woman ever to bid for president in Tajikistan on Friday said she was quitting as candidate for an Islamic party after her team narrowly failed to collect enough signatures from supporters.

Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a 65-year-old rights lawyer, caused a stir in the impoverished mainly Muslim country when the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party picked her as its candidate for the November 6 presidential race.

As a Muslim woman who refuses to wear a headscarf, she was a highly unusual candidate for the moderate Islamic party in the ex-Soviet country where 99 percent of the population are Sunni Muslims.

But she told AFP that she was quitting the race after her team narrowly missed gathering the required number of signatures from supporters by a Friday morning deadline.

"I have quit the presidential race. We didn't manage to collect the necessary signatures. I took this decision, I will not submit documents to the central electoral commission," she said.


Bobonazarova, who heads an NGO that fights for the rights of migrant workers, women and torture victims, complained that local officials had hindered her campaign team from collecting signatures.

"My supporters came under pressure when they were collecting signatures in the regions. The local authorities caused them various problems."

She said that her supporters had collected just under 210,000 signatures, while she needed to submit 210,000 under Tajik law.

The Islamic Renaissance Party is the only legally registered Islamic political party in ex-Soviet Central Asia. It holds two seats out of 63 in the lower house of parliament.

The November presidential election is expected to hand another seven-year mandate to incumbent Emomali Rakhmon, 61, who has held onto power since 1992.

Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, is the poorest ex-Soviet country where around 40 percent live in poverty and almost half the GDP comes from remittances sent by migrant workers living in Russia.