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.
The authorities have an uneasy relationship with Islam, flourishing since independence, and the state has cracked down hard on anyone it suspects of militant tendencies.
John MacLeod, Central Asia analyst of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, thinks the mass gathering was born not just from religious sentiment.
“I think it’s not necessarily about political Islam, but it shows that people are not completely cowed,” he says. “They care about their livelihoods, they care about their children’s future like everybody else and they are very disappointed and disillusioned in the political and judicial systems.”
Full Article: Lifeless Uzbek election hides power struggle – BBC News.