An interview with Shahboz Abror, the new chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT).

A leadership crisis in the party has led to the election of a relatively unknown figure as the party's leader.


Collective Decision

Q: How, when, and by whom was it proposed to review Usmonzoda's activities over the past years and elect a new leader?

A: According to the DPT charter, Political Council meetings should be held four times a year to address current issues. The chairman is supposed to communicate the decisions made at these meetings to the parliament and the public. However, since 2022, after the 17th congress of the party, at which Saidjafar Usmonzoda was elected chairman, no Political Council meetings have been held.  We have repeatedly explained the necessity of these meetings to him, but he did not listen.  These concerns were mainly conveyed by the first deputy (Ahmadshoh Komilzoda), but Usmonzoda responded, "It's not time yet."

After all this, seven members of the Political Council decided to hold a congress to review the party's activities over recent years.  It was a collective decision.  When the Political Council members gathered, we also invited Usmonzoda, but he turned off his phone.  Thus, we were forced to hold the meeting and congress without his participation and discuss his removal.


Q: Saidjafar Usmonzoda claims that at the time when you and other members of the DPT Political Council gathered and scheduled the XVIII party congress, he was abroad. Couldn't you wait for his return?

A: Such situations occurred several times, but ultimately, meetings were not held. When we decided to hold an extraordinary congress, I personally contacted Usmonzoda and asked him to nominate himself for the position of chairman.  Additionally, we sent Zuhro Mirzoyeva, one of the party veterans and deputy chair, to personally invite him to the 18th congress.  A day before the congress, on May 10, we held a Political Council meeting and invited Usmonzoda to participate, but he did not come.


Q: You say the chairman was inactive, so why did no one raise this issue earlier? Why was it decided now to review his activities and remove him from the position of party chairman?

A: The congress reviewed Saidjafar Usmonzoda's activities only for the past two to three years. It's worth noting that in the first years after his election as chairman, he was active, and I mentioned this at the congress.  However, after 2022, his activity was barely noticeable; he never held Political Council meetings and did not meet with its members.  He didn't even have a specific office. These shortcomings worried the members and veterans of the party.  Before 2022, the Political Council and party congresses were held, and remarks were made there.  We hoped that things would improve over time, but they didn't. Although the former chairman communicated with the media, the internal party activities were unsatisfactory. If the former chairman had participated in this congress and assured the party members that activities would improve, we might have re-elected him as chairman, but Usmonzoda did not attend. After this, party members entrusted the leadership to me.


Q: Saidjafar Usmonzoda was active on social media, in conversations with the media, and at various meetings and events. Is there perhaps another reason his activities were brought into question?

A: Speaking to the media and on social media is one thing, but reviving party activities is another. When party members and the Political Council don't know where the chairman is, meetings are not held, party activities are not reviewed, and members only see their leader in the media and on social networks, it's hard to say the party is active.


Q: This is not the first crisis within the DPT. Why does this party often find itself in crisis situations?

A: The party is called democratic, and everyone has the right to freely express their position. The DPT has always been such that if the activities of one of the leaders were weak, another leader would come and revitalize it.  Indeed, some chairmen become deputies from the party, and the party makes them well-known figures, but they forget about the party and those who elected them in return. The party should not consist of just one leader.  The DPT has 11 Political Council members, veterans, and active members, as well as other party members, and all of them need to be in contact.  Today, 7 out of 11 Political Council members supported me and elected me as chairman.  In the future, if I don't conduct good activities, another person can hold a meeting with the Political Council members and replace me. This is not prohibited by either the charter or the country's legislation.


Focus on youth

Q: You are young and lack experience in leading a party. Are you confident that, unlike Usmonzoda, you can fulfill the tasks and goals set for the party?

A: Despite my youth, I've been involved in party activities since 2012. Initially, I was the chairman of the youth organization, then the chairman of the party organization in Dushanbe, and since 2015, a deputy of the Dushanbe City Council. Before being elected chairman of the party, I was also a member of the Political Council. I am well-versed in the intricacies of politics. My appointment as chairman was a decision by the Political Council members, which was supported. I will strive to justify their trust.


Q: How many members are currently in the DPT?

A: The previous leadership provided different data. We are currently reviewing all documentation. I can provide accurate data later. However, according to information submitted to the Ministry of Justice, the party has more than 80,000 members.


Q: When you submitted the party documents and the protocol of the last congress to the Ministry of Justice, were you invited to explain the party's program and future activities?

A: We submitted all the protocols and documents of the congress and Political Council meeting to the Ministry of Justice. We were invited several times to discuss contentious issues. We also provided documents of the Political Council members who participated in the congress and voted. They thoroughly reviewed them and on May 31, notified us that I was registered as the new party chairman.


Q: Most of those who attended the last congress were young people. Usmonzoda claims that they were not party members, but students from the university...

A: These young people were admitted to the party based on their applications. We also wanted to rely on the youth. Before the congress, we held party conferences in the regions to elect delegates. Those who attended the congress were registered as delegates.


Future plans

Q: Now that you have been recognized as the chairman of the DPT, what are your plans and programs?

A: My primary task is to revive the party's activities. I plan to talk with each Political Council member, veterans, and active members to reignite their enthusiasm and commitment to the party.  Many of them are loyal to the party's ideals, but the lack of attention has cooled their fervor.  In other words, we intend to pull the party out of its current state of disunity. We want to activate its role in the political struggle and increase our seats in parliament.  Additionally, we plan to participate in meetings of the city and district councils, as their activities are currently almost invisible.


Q: The parliamentary elections are a year away. What program will you use to participate in this political campaign?

A: I support the program we had before. At present, we have not made any changes to the working program and the party's charter, and we will make decisions on this issue at the next Political Council meetings.


Opposition to the government or a "pocket party"?

Q: Is the DPT, alongside the PDPT, an opposition party, and do you aim for the presidency?

A: Every party has such a goal. When we created the party, the goal was, of course, to become an opposition to the government. That is, opposing positions, although the programs may be similar. However, we will propose reconsideration of issues that do not meet our party's requirements. We also want to participate in presidential and parliamentary elections.


Q: You mentioned having 12 years of political experience. Can you say which decisions and programs of the current government you disagree with?

A: Apart from being the party chairman, I also have my own media outlet. In it, all existing problems in state bodies are discussed, and this is my position. Part of my program may involve addressing the issue of eradicating corruption and bureaucracy in state institutions. Although we have a structure to fight corruption, we would like to make proposals to improve its work.


Q: Besides the PDPT, other parties in society are called "pocket parties." Can you say that the DPT was one of these parties?

A: Possibly, on some issues, we have similar views with the ruling party. But this does not mean we are a "pocket party." Every party fights for the well-being of the people. However, the paths and methods are different. No one wants to harm their people. All parties may have the same goal, but the ways to achieve these goals may vary. Perhaps the reason some parties are called "pocket parties" is due to the lack of proposals and working programs. But the DPT is not a "pocket party."


Possible rival to Rustam Emomali?

Q: According to the law, presidential elections in Tajikistan should take place in 2027. There are rumors that the elections might be held early. In any case, most experts consider Rustam Emomali, the mayor of Dushanbe and chairman of the Majlisi Milli Majlisi Oli, the main contender for the presidency. It is suggested that your election as DPT chairman is also aimed at presenting a young rival to the mayor of the capital. How accurate are these assumptions?

A: When changes occur, especially in any field, people are always inclined to see someone's scheme behind them. In the journalistic community, when you prepare material, they say it's commissioned. That is, we tend to look for flaws in everything and can't accept that it's a person's own desire.

The party's goal is to participate in political campaigns to make the party's position visible and consider the proposals of its members. In any political event, the DPT will propose its representative. Whether it will be me or someone else will be decided by the Political Council. The assumption you mentioned might be true, or it might not.

Rumors about Rustam Emomali's candidacy for the presidential elections have been ongoing since 2016. Why didn't this happen before the previous elections, but now, when I became the DPT chairman?  Let's be realistic. Around every active person, there will always be suspicions and assumptions.  Why, for example, do some not think that my election was simply a decision of the party's Political Council?


Q: So, no one stands behind this crisis in the DPT?

A: I have not seen anyone. I believe these are just empty speculations.


Q: You are familiar with the party's program and charter. What conclusions have you reached regarding what needs to be changed in the program?

A: I participated in drafting the current charter.  The party's charter was approved in 2013.  I have been a Political Council member since 2012 and believe the current program corresponds to our activities. However, in the modern political life of the country, it's important to be more active, and we will strive for this.  A change in party leadership is not a tragedy.  The program, charter, and the party itself remain the same.

In such a situation, our task was to pull the party out of this abyss.

Recall, the former leader of the DPT Saidjafar Usmonzoda, who was also member of the Majlisi Namoyndgon (Tajikistan’s lower chamber of parliament), was detained on June 14 for allegedly “plotting to overthrow the government.”