Crossroads Asia | Politics | Central Asia

Tajik President’s Son Officially Second-in-Line to Presidency

With his election as chair of the Tajik parliament’s upper house, Rustam Emomali is now officially second-in-line to the presidency.

Catherine Putz
Tajik President’s Son Officially Second-in-Line to Presidency
Credit: Flickr / khadamotimatbuot

On April 17, during the first session of the Tajik Parliament following the March 1 elections, Rustam Emomali — the son of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon — was elected chair of the  Majlisi Milli (National Assembly), the parliament’s upper chamber. 

The position formally places him second-in-line to the presidency should anything happen to Rahmon.

Emomali takes the post over from Mahmadsaid Ubaydulloyev, who had been chair of the Majlisi Milli since 2000. This isn’t the first job Emomali has followed Ubaydulloyev into. From 1996 to 2017, Ubaydulloyev was also the presidentially appointed mayor of Dushanbe. In 2017, he was dismissed and replaced by Emomali .

Eurasianet has the details of inter-elite tension undergirding Ubaydulloyev’s second high-level dismissal in three years. 

Emomali, 32 years old, has long been floated by regional watchers as the heir apparent. That’s become more apparent than ever. A 2016 constitutional referendum not only abolished term limits for the country’s first president, the Leader of the Nation, but also lowered the age at which a person could run for the office from 35 to 30. 

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Emomali’s career trajectory has been calculated, if curiously jumbled: at various points in the past 15 years Emomali has co-founded a football club, served as a deputy of the Tajik Football Federation, worked on Tajikistan’s World Trade Organization cooperation organization and then the State Committee on Investments and State Property, and served as deputy of the Youth Union. In 2011, he was put in charge of the Customs Service’s anti-smuggling department and two years later he was running the Customs Service, an appointment that came with a military promotion to major general (despite his lack of actual military service). In 2015, Emomali’s father appointed him to run the anti-corruption agency — an ironic appointment to say the least.

The common theme is that Rahmon has charted his son a path across the nodes of power in the government and manipulated the constitution to give his son an easy path to the presidency. Emomali is often seen alongside his father as he carries out his presidential duties, such as walking among the springtime flowers in Dushanbe. When the time comes, Emomali will be a familiar figure to the Tajik electorate — not that there will be any free and fair elections in Tajikistan any time soon — but more importantly he will be a familiar face to the rest of the Tajik government. 

Tajikistan’s next scheduled presidential election is set for later this year. Rahmon is (if we take the 2019 resignation of Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev at face value) the longest currently sitting post-Soviet leader. Rahmon has very clearly, since at least 2016, put in place the necessities to ensure a dynastic transition. Whether that comes in 2020 or not is up for speculation, but all the pieces are in place.