Tajikistan: Locals 'locked in' at election event
Residents of the Tajik capital were duped into attending a campaign event for the ruling party and then stopped from leaving, it's been claimed.
Dozens of state company employees, university students and schoolchildren were told to gather at a park in Dushanbe on their day off, but weren't told why, according to the privately-owned Ozodagon news agency. When they arrived, people discovered they were attending a campaign event for the ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT), the agency says. Locals say some people wanted to leave but couldn't because the park gates were locked, and photos show some trying to climb over the railings. "After taking a stroll around we decided to go out but faced a difficulty... We, including children, women and elderly, were caged like wild animals in a zoo," said one attendee in a social media post seen by the BBC, which has since been deleted.
A spokesman for the Education Ministry dismissed the complaints, and was quoted as saying everyone who took part in the event went there "voluntarily". That hasn't stopped social media users accusing the ruling party of running a "coercive" campaign in comments posted on the agency's website. The event hasn't been mentioned on state-owned media websites. Voters in Tajikistan go to the polls on 1 March to elect members of parliament's lower house and local councils. The ruling PDPT is widely expected to retain its majority, but the opposition Islamic Rebirth Party is proving increasingly popular among Tajikistan's Muslim population, and could be a serious challenger to ruling party.
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