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Civil war in Tajikistan


After the collapse of the SSSR in December 1991 (The Tajikistani government was against it) a civil war rose in the Republic, which practically was an armed conflict between various clans: supporters of the central power (the former communistic elite), national democratic power and groupings of United Tajik Opposition representatives. The biggest collisions happened in the period between July 1992 and July 1993; the Peace Treaty was signed in June 1997.
In Autumn 1991, a crisis was developing in Tajikistan that mainly originated from the adverse economic situation in the Republic and the fast development of Muslim parties, who claimed on the political power as they acquired a huge support from the citizens (Tajiks are religious). The situation was complicated because of the mutual battles and resistance between the rather industrially developed north and south.

The Course of the Conflict

Photo: fergananews
Mass riots in Dushanbe in 1990

In February 1990, mass disturbances happened in Dushanbe, participants of which demanded to fire President Qahhor Mahkamov (previously he was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan), the dismissal of the Communist Party and the annulment of the law that banned the Islam Renaissance Party. The disturbances were indirectly caused by Armenian pogroms in Baku, after it was announced that 5000 Armenian refugees would be given free apartments by Dushanbe (in reality, 39 Armenian families arrived in Dushanbe). The apartment issue was current to Tajiks as the country suffered from consequences after the demographic boom (the 60s and the 70s), which was overpopulation and the level of unemployment grew. The rebels got into the Communist Party’s building, policemen opened fire, but the disturbances continued as the rebels vandalized shops; later pogroms and violence was directed towards the Russian speaking citizens. In 13 February, the city’s public transport, state and public institutions stopped working in Dushanbe, approximately 5000 employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs structures were sent in, they were given permission to shoot the participants of the disturbances. 25 people died during the rebellion and more than 500 were injured.

Photo: sputnikipogrom
The largest cities in Tajikistan – the regions of the most intense warfare

In 21 August 1991, The Supreme Council of the Republic accepted a declaration for the state’s sovereignty; in 9 September, the independence of Tajikistan was proclaimed; in November, the Presidential election took place in which the former Secretary of the Communist Party, Rahmon Nabiyev, was elected with 56.9% support from the citizens. His competitor Davlat Khudonazarov (he was supported by the Democratic Party, the Islam Renaissance Party, Rastohez and the Muslim clergy) gained 30% support from the citizens. The opposition accused the power structures in the result falsification; however, for the next couple of months balance was maintained as the representatives of opposition were guaranteed immunity in exchange for their support of the existing political methods.

Photo: fergananews
Massive rallies in Dushanbe in 1992

In the Spring of 1992, the government and opposition’s resistance regarding the result of the Presidential election, created collisions in Dushanbe, armed collisions began, the economic situation sharply worsened and migration increased. The armed conflict was promoted also by external factors – Uzbekistan’s interference in Tajikistan’s internal affairs, the formation of Taliban regime in Afghanistan, USA’s conflict with Iran for influence in Tajikistan, the decrease of Russia’s influence regarding interstate relations in the former USSR territory.
In April 1992, several representatives of the opposition were detained and, while protesting about it, demonstrations derived in Dushanbe, with approximately 60 000 people participating. Supporters of the government also organized demonstrations and in May the parties started to form armed groupings.
In 5 May, state of emergency was announced, curfew in Dushanbe was set and demonstrations were banned. Although, at the same time, on a road to south from Dushanbe, the local citizens together with representatives of the opposition tried to detain a column of government supporters; gunfire began.
The supporters of Dushanbe took over the television centre, airport, railway station and transport man roads. Furthermore, police and special-use units joined the opposition. In 10 May, representatives of the opposition went to the National Security Committee building, where the President was at the moment. The policemen started shooting and 14 people were killed in the result. It led to a new demonstration and on the next day, a new National Reconciliation Commission was formed, in which 11 from 24 positions were taken by representatives of opposition from Gharm and Pamir (they made the basis of the opposition). Nabiyev continued to be the state leader.
In June 1992, the warfare moved from Dushanbe to the south regions. In 19 June, the National Rescue headquarters was established (it consisted of the opposition’s organizations) and it was supported by the employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and volunteer associations. In 27 June, the Vakhsh region civil conflict began with non-residents from other regions. This situation was taken advantage of by Nabiyev’s supporters – they took over the radio station in Vakhsh to announced about the attack of 3000 democrats and Islamists on the region, as well as to ask the Uzbeks from Kulyab, Leninabad and Kurgantepa to resist the Islamists. A few dozen people died in Vakhsh, but in 29 June, in Kurgantepa, agreement was made to ceasefire. In 1 July, due to the situation’s aggravation in the south, the government made a decision to strengthen the security of the strategic objects and also involve the Russian 201st motorized riflemen division force that is located in the Republic (the Russian soldiers were placed in the Nurek Hydroelectric plant, Javana Electro-Mechanical complex, Vakhsh Nitrogen Fertilizer factory region, as well as several military strategic objects, ensuring control over the several road stages and mountain passes along the Kulyab and Kurgantepa regions). Armed collisions continued until 27 July, then the agreement to ceasefire was signed. Although, soon enough it was violated as the government supporters (Kulyab origin) got involved in the battle with the opposition (Gharm origin). CIS subordinate units that were located in the region and the police were involved in the conflict.    
In 24 August, in an assassination attempt, the Tajikistan’s General Prosecutor Nurullo Huvaydulloev (Leninabad origin) was killed and that provoked protest demonstrations in Leninabad as well as Kulyab.
In 31 August, the opposition movement Dushanbe’s Youth, together with refugees from Kulyab and Kurgantepa, took over the President’s residence, but Nabyev was hiding in the 201st division’s territory and refused to meet up with the opposition. In reaction to it, National guard units were established in Leninabad that supported the government.
In 2 September, the Supreme Council’s parliamentarians announced their distrust towards the President, whereas, in Kurgantepa, his supporters came together in demonstrations, which were surrounded by the opposition and they started gunfire and took over the important objects in the city. In the Islamist attacks, Uzbeks, who had moved from Samarkand, were also injured. On 7 September, Nabyev made an attempt to leave Dushanbe, but it failed, and he was forced to resign.

Photo: origins.osu
Emomali Rahmon

At the same time, the strengthening of the Popular Front and its leader’s Sangak Safarov’s closest confrere Enomali Rahmon happened (they both are from Kulyab and they represented the party’s nomenclature). It is believed that Safarov in June 1992, in Kulyab established the Popular Front from the National guard units, in which the Russian special services had an important significance (After the collapse of the SSSR, the Main Intelligence Directorate’s GRU 15th brigade was not disbanded, but instead joined the Uzbekistan Armed Forces and with the start of the civil war in the neighbouring country, supported the government forces with weapons and experts. The GRU officers trained the Tajik soldiers and participated in reconnaissance and diversion activities in Kurgantepa). Along with Safarov, Safarali Kenzhaev, who was Nabyev’s confrere, joined the Popular Front.

Sangak Safarov

The Popular Front’s units began an active warfare against opposition’s fighters in Kurgantepa, where, similarly to Kulyab, terror was directed against the peaceful citizens. Safarov led the violence against Islamist supporters in Gharm, Kurgantepa, Gorno-Badakhshan. In the collisions, the Islamists managed to achieve the Popular Front’s units retreat to the Kulyab’s region; they began the extermination of Uzbeks and Russians living in Kurgantepa. In the opposition’s government, largest significance was in the Gharm clan, Islamists became dependant from the Gharm grouping and that created contradictions in the opposition – it led supporters from Dushanbe, Kurgantepa and Gorno-Badakhshan to join the Popular Front side. During this time, Uzbekistan started to supply the government forces supporters with weapons and units of Uzbeks, who lived in Tajikistan, were formed. In September 1992, they took over the Gissar Valley and established a new grouping – the united Gissar and Tursunzoda grouping. This grouping performed a strategically important operation – took over in their control the railway traffic and blocked the Dushanbe, Gharm and Pamir regions, which were under the control of Islamists. In order to prevent the Afghan soldier admittance in the country, the Panj border security units were strengthened by adding Airborne army subordinate units.
In 24 September, the Islamists invaded the village next to Kurgantepa and performed a mass extermination of the local citizens. Later, the village was freed by the Popular Front units, but the collisions with the Islamists continued.
In 24 October, the Popular Front units unsuccessfully tried to occupy Dushanbe. The attempts continued until December, when Dushanbe was under the control of the Popular Front.

Photo: sputnikipogrom
The map of warfare, November 1992.

In 10 November, Tajikistan’s Supreme Council was fired and in the period between 16 November and 2 December, a new session took place, in which Emomali Rahmon was elected as the chairman of the Supreme Council. In December, the government addressed Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Russia and Uzbekistan about bringing the Peacekeeping contingents in the country. Whereas, Kenzhaev, who was not offered any positions in the Supreme Council, organized an attack on Dushanbe, involving his supporters. At the same time, Gissar units also attacked the capital.
In the time period until 10 December, the Popular Front managed to occupy Dushanbe and the warfare moved to the towards Pamir and Gharm. The Popular Front in Dushanbe began a terror against the opposition party representatives, many people were detained.
The most intense phase in the war was in 1992, in that period, approximately 20 000 people lost their lives and 100 000 became refugees. Almost all Uzbeks left the south regions, industry and agriculture sectors were destroyed.
In 1993, the main warfare regions were Gharm, Ramitan and Darvaza. In 21 June, the activity of opposition party was forbidden, but four political movements created a bloc – United Tajik Opposition.
Starting from Spring, the invasions in Tajikistan and Afghanistan borderland (they were organized by opposition in cooperation with Afghan fighters) and collisions with border guards grew. During the invasion in 13 July, the border guards were supported by the 201st division subordinate units and the Mujahideen were banished, the intensity of the attacks started to decrease. In the United Tajik Opposition, disagreements started to form, and several units left the opposition. Whereas, the Popular Front strengthened its forces with the support from Uzbekistan.
In 1994, the opposition forces tried to activate, but it was an unsuccessful attempt. At the same time, disagreements formed also in the Popular Front – participants from Kulyab and Gissar laid claim on the leadership in the government’s coalition.

Photo: rferl
The signing of the Peace Agreement in 27 June 1997

In April 1995, the opposition tried to attack from the Afghani territory, but the attempt was unsuccessful. By the end of April, discussion between the involved parties took place in Moscow, during which an agreement was made to have truce for a month. Later, in discussion, taking place in Kabul, between Rahmon and the leader of opposition, Sayid Abdulloh Nuri, the agreement was extended to three more months. Separate Islamist units consolidated in regions that were difficult to reach, and remained there until 2010. The active warfare phase ended in 1995, the collisions happening were not connected to the opposition’s fight against the government, but instead were the local field commander battle between themselves in order to gain dominance in the region and control over the economic resources.

The involved parties of the conflict quickly recognized the destruction due to the warfare and were ready to start discussions in order to find a solution, without using methods that involve force. The international society participated in the organizing of the discussion, mainly Russia and Iran, as well as UN (the organization’s mission started in 21 January 1993).
In 7 August 1993, in Moscow, after Russia’s initiative, between Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan Presidents and representative of Turkmenistan President a meeting took place, in which a decision was made about the collective defence of Tajikistan and Afghanistan borders and the parties involved in the conflict were invited to arrange discussions. In September 1993, the CIS Collective Peacekeeping was organized in Tajikistan (one battalion from Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, Russia’s 201st motorized riflemen division and border guard subordinate units in Tajikistan, in total 25 000 soldiers).
The discussions were extended as the leaders of the involved parties did not have a united stance, meaning, there was friction in the opposition because some Islamists supported the signing of the Peace Agreement and at the same time, others did not; in the discussions participated several clan representatives. Although in 23 December 1996, in Moscow, an agreement was signed to include the opposition in the government, 5000 fighters in the government army and to offer amnesty to 5000 more. In 27 June 1997, the final Peace Treaty was signed. According to it, Rahmon remained as the President, but the representatives of the opposition were ensured positions in both the government and industry objects. After the Treaty was signed, the repatriation of refugees from Afghanistan began.
The discussions about peace had several phases and they took place in various cities:


The date, place and result of the discussions





5-15 April, Moscow

The start of the discussion process

18-25 June, Teheran

Agreement on the consultation group meeting in 12 – 17 September, in Teheran, who created a United commission to implement the agreement for ceasefire

20 October – 1 November, Islamabad


22 May – 1 June, Almati


3 -24 November, Ashgabat


26 January – 18 February, Ashgabat

8 -21 July, Ashgabat




5 January – 19 February, Mashhad and Teheran

9 April – 28 May, Teheran

27 June, Moscow

The President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, and the leader of the United Tajik Opposition, Sayid Abdulloh Nuri, signed The United Treaty to Establish Peace and National Concordance in Tajikistan. The document also determined the foundation of the National Reconciliation Commission (13 participants from the government and 13 from the opposition).

The Involved Parties

The basis of the United Tajik Opposition was made from the Islamic Renaissance Party, Democratic Party and several other movements.
By the end of the 80s, four clans had been established from the ethnically regional citizen groups – Leninabad, Gharm, Kulyab and Pamir. During the USSR time, officials from Leninabad (now Khujand, in the Republic’s north) and Kulyab (in the Republic’s south) dominated in the political field; they were in the high positions of the corresponding administrative and power structures. After the declaration of independence, representatives of other clans (Badakhshan, Gisara, Gharm) tried to change the allocation of role in the state administration.
The beginning of this process can be seen already in February 1990, when the secular national democrat uprising of the movement Rastohez  (Renaissance) happened in Dushanbe; it encouraged Russians and Russian speaking citizens to leave Dushanbe. The clans united in several political parties and movements, including:

The name of the Party/movement

Year of fundation

Origin of members

People’s movement Rastohez (Renaissance)


Gharm and Pamir (the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region)

Democratic Party


Gharm and Pamir

Islamic Renaissance Party



Society Lali Badahšon (The Pearl of Badakhshan)



People’s Front


Kulyab and Gisara, Uzbeks

Socialist Party



People’s Democratic Party



Party of People’s Unity



Consequences of the war

During the civil war, according to various data, between 100 000 and 150 000 people lost their lives, approximately 1.2 million more became refugees, more than 50 000 Tajiks moved to Afghanistan and 200 000 moved to the CIS countries. Representatives of other nationalities left the Republic as well (almost all of the Russians, Ukrainians, Hebrews etc.).
The warfare almost completely destroyed the already weak industry in the Republic, which impaired the state economy, by making Tajikistan one of the poorest countries in the world. Although international organizations ensured their support to Tajikistan and the state economy was partly renewed, the Republic still is one of the CIS poorest countries.
One of the issues in Tajikistan that still remains after the civil war, is the elimination of anti-personnel landmines and mine clearance in the territory. In 2000, Tajikistan signed the Ottawa Treaty and taking on the commitment to destroy the anti-personnel landmines in Republic until 1 April 2010. It has been unsuccessful as they lacked the resources of field engineers, equipment and finances. In 2009, Tajikistan turned to the Ottawa Treaty’s Secretariat with a request to postpone the execution of the commitment to clear the territory from anti-personnel mines for 10 more years.
The mine clearance began in 2004, 2.5 million m² have been demined, 12 000 mines and charges have been destroyed. At the present moment, 17 million m² of the state territory still remain mined and every year dozens of people suffer in mine explosions. Since 1992, 351 people have lost their lives in anti-personnel landmine explosions and 450 have been injured.
In the demining process, Uzbekistan needs to be involved. In 1992, they mined the border with Tajikistan, explaining it with the necessity to guarantee national security and to prevent possible fighter entry through Tajikistan in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan has not signed the Ottawa Treaty, but the Uzbekistan – Tajikistan border (1100 km) has still not been fully demarcated and delimitated, which has delayed the demining process.
A current issue is the possible entry of extremists in the country. Every year, there are reports of dozens of extremists detained, part of them being members of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Daesh and other terrorist organizations. Issues also come from the constant drug contraband from Afghanistan and invasions from smugglers, who often kidnap the local citizens and demand payment for the delivered drugs. In the borderland, often collisions with Afghan smugglers take place, in the result of which, Tajik soldiers lose their lives.
The stabilization of the political situation ensured a certain economic rebirth, but the previous level was not reached, and the lowest level of poverty cannot be met by 86% of the citizens. As ill-disposed can be considered the situation in the field for human rights – the judicial system is not independent, very often the opponents of the leading regime are being chased after. Rahmon oppresses free-thinking and strengthens unilateral power, punishing not only his opponents but also political confreres. Several state-owned enterprises and banks are being controlled by Rahmon’s relatives.
In a largest or smaller rate, the resistance of former United Tajik Opposition field commanders and powers continues – constantly the chase after opposition is renewed, even though they are constantly promised immunity in a presidential level. Rahmon is aware of the internal threats and does everything possible to prevent the merger of the opposition (between the former field commanders and Islam Renaissance Party), as well as the emergence of a united leader, who could unite the forces and direct them towards the change in the current power. According to a data from a sociological survey, it is undesired by the majority of Tajik citizens as they see Rahmon as their hero, who managed to stop the civil war.

Current situation

In 1998, 2010 and 2011, opponents of Rahmon tried to organize armed uprisings, but the special services stopped them. The Islam Renaissance Party was created from the United Tajik Opposition members, in 2000, they announced that they will become an opposition party. In the 2015 election, the party did not gain the necessary support to get in the Parliament and soon after the election its activity was banned.
The Mahmud Khudoiberdiyev rebellion in November 1998, in Khujand
In 3 November 1998, in Khujand (in the North of the Republic), approximately 1000 armed rebels attacked the Ministry of Internal Affairs administration, located in the city, units of Armed Forces and Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as took control over the important objects and the Shahristan Pass in order to block the road between Dushanbe and state’s north. The attacks were organized by the former field commander, colonel Mahmud Khudoiberdiyev.
The government forces were relocated through Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan territories and in 5 November they were successful in taking over control of objects in Khujand, but in 6 November, they managed to dismiss Khudoiberdiyev’s supporters out of Chkalovsky. The government force operation was finished in 9 November.     It is considered that until 2001, Khudoiberdiyev was planning an attack on Dushanbe, trying to attract Afghan Mujahideen to join his supporters. After an unconfirmed information, in Autumn of 2001, Khudoiberdiyev died. Later it was mentioned that he resides in Uzbekistan’s territory.

The 2010 special operations in the Rasht Valley

In 19 September 2010, an attack happened against the Armed Forces and National guard convoy, killing 28 soldiers and injuring 12. In the organization of the attack, officially blamed were the former United Tajik Opposition field commanders Abdullo Rakhimov (a.k.a. mullo Abdullo), Alovudin Davlatov (a.k.a. Ali Bedak) and Mirzokhuja Ahmadov (a.k.a. Belgi) foreign fighters from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Pakistan, as well as some of the 25 individuals that escaped from the Dushanbe prison in 23 August 2010 and joined the groupings of the aforementioned commanders in the Rasht region.
In 22 September, in the Rasht region  a special operation began, and it was assumed that the escape of the 25 criminals from the National Security Committee prison has been previously planned and external forces are involved – Uzbekistan, Russia and Afghanistan (its citizens were between the escapees), which had interest in the destabilization of the President Rahmon’s leadership.
In 15 October 2010, by reacting on the outspoken assumption, the head of Uzbekistan Strategic Research Centre’s Foreign Affair administration, Abdunabi Sattorov, announced that the situation’s destabilization in Tajikistan is not beneficial neither for Uzbekistan or Russia  as it can negatively influence the security of both countries. He reminded the fact that Uzbekistan for several years now fight against the Uzbekistani Islam Movement. Tajikistan official representatives also tried to withdraw the harsh announcements. In 18 October, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hamrohon Zarifi, questioned the version that the neighbouring countries or power countries could be interested in the situation destabilization in Tajikistan. Zarifi also informed that the discussions about the use of the military aerodrome located in Ayni, are happening only with Russia.  It is possible, that the possibility of the aerodrome use and the situation in Tajikistan was discussed during the Tajikistan Committee for National Security chairman’s, Saimumin Yatimov, visit to Moscow, in 14 October, although no commentary about the visit were published.
In 25 and 26 October 2010, while visiting Kabul, Rahmon pointed out that in the events that took place in the Rasht region, participated the citizens from the former SSSR Republics, mainly from Tajikistan, although, the information about soldiers from Taliban and Al-Qaeda getting in Tajikistan from Afghanistan were not justified. He admitted that the unstable situation in Afghanistan can influence the entire Central Asia region and asked the international society to support this country in order to ensure peace and stability in it. However, Hamid Karzai confirmed that everything is being done in order to strengthen the Afghanistan and Tajikistan border.
In January 2011, near Gharm, Avoludin Davlatov, who was accused in attacking soldiers of the Armed Forces and National guard, and seven fighters of his grouping were eliminated; in April, Abdullo Rakhimov and 15 fighters were eliminated.

The 2012 special operation in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region

In 21 July 2012, on the main road from Ishkashim (borderland with Afghanistan) to Khoreg, the Chief of Committee for National Security Office in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region (GBAR), Major General Abdullo Nazarov, was killed during an attack made by unknown people. In the beginning it was assumed that the attackers were connected with the criminal groups and in 24 July, a special operation was started in the region in order to capture the criminals. Within its framework, several members of illegal armed formations were killed, and many were captured, including Afghani citizens (possible that they were members of the Taliban). According to the official data, nine power structure soldiers had lost their lives and 25 were heavily injured. Journalists reported about the panic in Khoreg (the administrative centre of GBAR), the injured and killed peaceful citizens, disconnected telephone communications and closed road Dushanbe-Khoreg, as well as the seen gathering of soldiers in the borderland with Afghanistan.
The former field commander Talib Aiombekov was accused in the murder of Nazarov, he was the Deputy to the Ishkashim (borderland with Afghanistan) Border Security Force commander. According to the official data, the illegal grouping, led by Talib Aiombekov, was connected with contraband of drugs, tobacco products and jewels.
According to the official data, during the special operation in Khoreg, where approximately 3000 power structure employees were involved, as well as armoured vehicles and helicopters, 30 fighters were killed and 40 were captured, approximately 100 riflemen weapons were taken out; 12 soldiers were killed and 23 were injured; the peaceful citizens were not harmed.
The operation gained a reaction from other countries. In 24 July 2012, by the Tajikistan embassy in Moscow, an unauthorized meeting took place, which was organized by Tajiks from GBAR (Pamiris). Its participants demanded to immediately stop the operation and to withdraw the power structure subordinate units from GBAR, pointing out that an ethnic cleansing is happening there and Khoreg is being bombarded. According to them, one of the former field commanders and the unofficial leader of Pamir, Yedgor Shomusalamov, and the son of Talib Aiombekov were killed in the operation, as well as several peaceful citizens. Aiombekov supposedly moved to Afghanistan.
In 25 July 2012, by the Tajikistan embassy in Bishkek, a picket took place, in which approximately 100 members demanded to end the operation in Khoreg.
GBAR is the poorest region in the Republic, it has the highest level of unemployment, but the prices for food and essential products is twice as high as in other state regions. In 2008, in Khoreg (the centre of the region), several protests took place, in which the participants protested against the activity of the local prosecutor’s office. It was then, when a decision was made to bring additional forces in the region.

In July 2015, Tajikistan’s Prosecutor General Office announced that in the period of the last five years, 45 members of the party have committed various crimes and for 34 of them rulings have been made. After the Prosecutor General Office’s data, the leader of the party, Muhiddin Kabiri, illegally privatized the hospital building that was in a construction stage, and land in Dushanbe, as well as sold it to a third party. Prosecutor General Office report also mentions that member secession from the party practically confirms that is has lost it political party’s status.
In Autumn of 2015, the leader of the party, Muhiddin Kabiri (leads the party since 2006; resides in Turkey since March 2015), announced that, despite the pressure from the Republic’s government, the party will organize its meetings in order to discuss the implementation of preventive events between members of the party, especially the youth. It is being done to prevent them from joining terrorist and extremist groupings. Political scientists assume that, by Kabiri leaving the country, the party has lost potential for further activity and in ear future could fall apart or become an opposition party in another country. In 29 September 2015, in Tajikistan, the party was acknowledged as a terrorist organization and its activity was banned.
The Tajikistan Islam Renaissance party is the only officially registered religious party in Central Asia, which until Spring of 2015 was represented in the Parliament (in the 2015 Parliament election, the party did not get the necessary voter support).