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.
Voters in Uzbekistan are casting ballots Sunday in the tightly controlled, ex-Soviet nation’s first presidential election since the death of Islam Karimov, the authoritarian leader who ruled for 27 years. Acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who spent 13 years as Karimov’s prime minister, is expected to easily win a five-year term in the Central Asia country. Karimov led Uzbekistan since before the Soviet collapse, first as its communist boss and then as president. During his long tenure, he ruthlessly crushed all opposition, silenced the media and was repeatedly denounced by international human rights groups for abuses that included killings and torture. Karimov also never cultivated a successor. His September death raised concerns that the predominantly Sunni Muslim nation of 32 million might see fierce infighting over its leadership that could allow radical Islamists to rise to power or exploit the situation. But the 59-year old Mirziyoyev shifted into the acting president’s job quickly and without any visible tensions, highlighting apparent consensus between regional clans.
Uzbeks will elect a new leader for the first time in more than 25 years on Sunday. Just don’t expect a Trump-like upset. About 18 million people are eligible to vote for a successor to Islam Karimov, the long-time dictator who died in September after ruling Uzbekistan ever since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Karimov’s prime minister for the past 13 years, is set to step seamlessly into the shoes of his former boss and is widely expected to continue his predecessor’s autocratic rule. Mirziyoyev is likely to win a landslide following a lacklustre election campaign enlivened only by a wild (and probably false) rumour that the new regime had poisoned Gulnara Karimova, the late president’s socialite eldest daughter, and buried her in a secret grave. Mirziyoyev’s three challengers are all regime loyalists standing only to lend a democratic veneer to an election in a country that has no political opposition or free press.
Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov cruised to a new five-year term Monday after facing a minimal challenge, prompting withering criticism from Western observers. The election commission in the tightly controlled Central Asian state said Karimov, 77, won more than 90 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election to extend his 25 years in power, with voter turnout reaching 91 percent. None of the three challengers — all fielded by parties that are openly supportive of Karimov’s rule — troubled the incumbent, scoring in the single digits.
Polls have opened in Uzbekistan for a presidential election that appears certain to bring incumbent President Islam Karimov to a fourth term in office. Voting began at 6 a.m. (local time) on March 29 across the former Soviet republic in Central Asia, where Karimov has eliminated almost all opposition during more than two decades in power. Karimov is being castigated by critics who descirbe the election as a sham in which his hand-picked rivals are effectively campaigning for him. Karimov faces three other candidates — Khotamjon Ketmonov of the People’s Democratic Party, Nariman Umarov of the Social Democratic Party Adolat (Justice), and Akmal Saidov of the Milli Tiklanish (National Revival) Party. All three are from pro-government parties and have spent their campaigns praising Karimov’s policies.
It’s one of the world’s most predictable elections, but Uzbeks gave their long-term leader something of a wake-up call in the run-up to Sunday’s vote. Authoritarian President Islam Karimov can still count on a fourth consecutive victory. But an unprecedented mass gathering in honour of an Islamic scholar who died earlier in the month rattled a regime which keeps a tight grip. The event – right in the middle of the campaign – suggested that people’s acquiescence cannot be taken for granted. In startling contrast to poorly-attended election events, huge crowds flooded the streets of the capital, Tashkent, on 11 March following the death of Sheikh Muhammad Sodiq Muhammad Yusuf. Traffic came to a standstill as people paid their respects in a spontaneous outpouring of grief. It was a highly unusual scene for a country where public gatherings are tightly controlled.
All arrangements have been made to hold presidential elections in Uzbekistan on March 29, Uzbek Consul General Ulugbek Maksudov said at a press briefing in Jeddah. An OIC delegation that will monitor the election process attended the press conference. The Central Election Commission will carry out all activities related to the preparation and conduct of elections in an open and transparent manner in accordance with the constitution of Uzbekistan, the consul general said.
In a bright and spacious room Uzbek President Islam Karimov is talking to his voters. Like every other meeting broadcast on state TV, it all looks very orderly. Men in suits and ties, women in smart dresses occupy the entire hall leaving no empty seats. They all have a pen and a notebook but nobody is taking any notes. When the speech is over, everyone jumps from their seats and applauds. President Karimov has been in power since 1989 when he was selected as the Communist Party leader of Soviet Uzbekistan. Today this Central Asian state is seen as one of the most repressive countries in the world, international organisations describe its human rights record as “abysmal” and Uzbek citizens often call their leader “podishoh”, the king.
The vote monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Uzbekistan’s parliamentary elections lacked real competition. In a statement on December 22, the head of the limited observation mission sent by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said freedom of expression and association are crucial to conducting free and fair elections. The December 21 elections “were competently administered but lacked genuine electoral competition and debate,” Daan Everts said. “More comprehensive steps are needed to provide voters with real electoral choices,” Everts said. Four parties, all of which support President Islam Karimov, competed for 135 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. The remaining 15 seats will automatically go to the pro-government Ecological Movement.
Uzbekistan is ready to hold elections to the legislative chamber of the parliament (Oliy Majlis) Dec. 21, the Chairman of Uzbekistan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) Mirza-Ulugbek Abdusalomov said Dec. 17. He made the remarks at a briefing for the diplomatic corps, representatives of international organizations accredited as observers, and the media. “The activity program for preparation and holding of elections, adopted in May, allowed organizing the entire electoral process at a high democracy level, to provide conditions for full realization of the citizens’ electoral rights and the active participation of political parties in the formation of public bodies,” he said.