President Emomali Rahmon’s son, Rustam Emomali, who is Chairman of the Majlisi Namoyandagon also Mayor of Dushanbe, has increasingly become Tajikistan’s face on the international arena. 

An official press release asserts, that a US$2 million grant is provided by China to Tajikistan for construction of an assembly hall at the government’s building as a result of a visit paid by Rustam Emomali to Beijing in August last year.    

Rustam Emomali has traveled to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, where he has held meetings with the presidents. In Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, Rustam Emomali has met with heads or deputy heads of government.

Eurasianet says that on January 8-9, he was in Iran, where he held talks with President Ebrahim Raisi and came away brandishing US$120 million of cooperation agreements and contracts.  It was reported that his China voyage produced US$400 million of fresh investments in Tajikistan.

Conversations about a succession plan have reportedly been ongoing for around a decade.

Under changes to the constitution approved by a referendum in May 2016, the age at which a candidate was permitted to run for presidential office was lowered from 35 to 30.  It was thought by many that this was being done to pave the way for Emomali, who was 26 at the time, to stand in the 2020 elections.

In 2017, President Rahmon appointed Rustam Emomali mayor of Dushanbe.  Three years later, Rustam Emomali was elected head of the Majlisi Milli (Tajikistan’s upper house of parliament). He holds both jobs contemporaneously.

However, Emomali Rahmon continues ruling the country.

Eurasianet notes that one explanation that has circulated is that there is persistent nervousness about Emomali Rahmon handing over control of the country to Rustam Emomali  that has, after all, known civil war in its relatively recent history. As the poorest country to emerge out of the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan has reportedly been assailed by many unexpected shocks.

In the year of the most recent presidential election, 2020, Tajikistan was, along with the rest of the world, brought low by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic impact of smaller numbers of Tajik migrant laborers being able to earn money to send home, usually from Russia, meant fewer people could afford to buy food.

Once that alarm was more or less weathered, another loomed on the southern border. In August 2021, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, with which Tajikistan shares a difficult-to-monitor 1,357-kilometer border.

Tajikistan has not had a real, viable political opposition group since 2015, when the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, or IRPT, was banned in Tajikistan. 

The most recent trouble has reportedly come in the shape of deadly border conflicts with Kyrgyzstan, in 2021 and 2022.  Very much against expectations, though, there are indications that the territorial disagreements that underlay those miniature wars could soon see some kind of resolution. The process is now ongoing.

One source in the halls of government told Eurasianet on strict condition of anonymity that “President Rahmon has needed to resolve thorny issues that a young leader could not handle.  If internal political issues do not arise in the near future, then after the border issues with Kyrgyzstan are resolved, early elections will be announced.”