Uzbekistan’s acting president has overwhelmingly won a tightly controlled presidential election, the Central Asian country’s first vote since the death of authoritarian leader Islam Karimov, election officials said Monday. Shavkat Mirziyoyev garnered 88.61 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission head Murza-Ulugbek Abdusalomov said during a briefing in Tashkent. Turnout was 87.83 percent, according to officials. None of the other three presidential contenders managed to get more than 4 percent of the ballots cast. While there were some minor improvements compared with previous elections, the vote was marred by a muzzled media, lack of independent candidates and widespread falsification, according to a report released by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The election “underscored the need of comprehensive reform to address long-standing systemic shortcomings,” the OSCE said in its preliminary findings.
But the result will consolidate Mirziyoyev’s position following his appointment as acting president just six days after Karimov’s death was announced at the beginning of September.
Karimov led Uzbekistan since before the 1991 Soviet collapse, first as its communist boss and then as its president. During his long tenure, he ruthlessly crushed all opposition and was denounced by international rights groups for abuses that included killings and torture. His death raised concerns that the predominantly Muslim nation of about 32 million might see fierce infighting over the choice of a successor. The 59-year old Mirziyoyev, an engineer by training, served as Karimov’s prime minister for 13 years.