(b. Kulyab region, Tajikistan, 5 Oct. 1952)
Tajik; President (chair of Supreme Soviet) of the Republic of Tajikistan 1992–4; President of Tajikistan 1994– After graduating in economics from Tajikistan State University Rakhmonov worked in trade union and party organizations before becoming Director of a state farm in the Kulyab region (1988–92). Soon after being appointed as chair of the Kulyab regional party committee in November 1992 he was elected chair of the Tajikistan Supreme Soviet (President) to replace the deposed Akbarsho Iskandarov. Rakhmonov was a safe Russian nominee installed when Russia and Uzbekistan jointly intervened in the Tajik civil war after Iskandarov had been forced to include members of the opposition (Democrats and Afghanistan-based Islamic Revivalists) in his government. After banning opposition parties and imposing controls on the press he won direct presidential elections in November 1994 (widespread vote-rigging was suspected). Similar legislative elections in February 1995 confirmed the domination of the Tajik Communist Party and its commitment to a one-party state. The civil war continued until a UN-brokered peace deal was signed in 1997 between Rakhmonov and Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which granted an amnesty to UTO members and allowed, in principle, for some limited sharing of power; over 20,000 people had died in the conflict and more than 500,000 displaced. In 1998 he became a member of the People's Democratic Party and won the 1999 presidential election with 97 per cent of the vote, an election that was internationally criticized. In 2003 he called a referendum to increase his allowable period of office to 2020 and won a further election in 2006, an election boycotted by the main opposition parties. In the early years of the new century his relations with Russia were close and only in 2005 did Russian troops who had been guarding the Afghan border leave. In 2007 he ‘de-Russianized’ his name by removing ‘ov’ and encouraged all Tajiks to do the same. He also developed closer links with China, and in January 2009 agreed that the US could transport non-military supplies to Afghanistan through Tajikistan. While still a relatively popular leader, his rule remains authoritarian, with patronage and corruption endemic in his administration.