Counting was under way in Tajikistan on Sunday in a presidential election expected to pave the way for incumbent Emomali Rakhmon to become the longest-ruling strongman in the former Soviet region.

Few are anticipating any hiccups for Mr. Rakhmon as he closes in on three decades in power and looks to overtake Kazakhstan’s recently retired Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The Central Electoral Commission said the vote had passed the turnout threshold required for validation, with more than 70% of the nearly five million strong electorate casting votes.

Statements of turnouts are a feature of elections in this part of the world however, and are impossible to verify.

Authoritarian Rakhmon faces four other candidates, all viewed as token opponents, in his bid for a fresh seven-year term. Results are expected on Monday.

Zarina Mamadnazarova, a 25-year-old woman who is unemployed, said she would vote for Mr. Rakhmon “because he is the best President, our national leader”.

Mr. Rakhmon is portrayed by state media as bringing stability to the country following a civil war during the 1990s that pitted government forces against a diverse opposition including Islamist fighters.

Safar Mallayev, 66, was voting for Mr. Rakhmon because of his “enormous experience”.

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