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.
Mutabar Tadjibayeva, a paris-based uzbek human rights campaigner and former political prisoner, says that not a single real opposition figure was able to register as a candidate because “no opposition exists in Uzbekistan.” Tadjibayeva says any opposition in the country has either been “destroyed, jailed, driven into exile, or killed.”
In the 2000 presidential election, Karimov’s sole challenger — Abdulkhafiz Jalalov – emerged from the voting booth and announced to the media that he had cast his ballot for Karimov.
To be eligible to run for president, candidates must be nominated by one of the four registered political parties in the country. All four are pro-Karimov parties.