Uzbekistan’s President Mirziyoyev cruises to victory after sham election
Uzbekistan appears to have given President Shavkat Mirziyoyev a second five-year term as a weak opposition failed to challenge the strongman leader.
He has relaxed several repressive controls of Islam Karimov, his veteran dictatorial predecessor who ruled for 27 years.
Mirziyoyev ended a decades-old system of forced labour with roots in the former Soviet Union and has introduced limited media freedoms.
But the 64-year-old president has made few political reforms.
A potential independent candidate, academic Khidirnazar Allakulov, failed to register a party that could nominate him.
Human Rights Watch said the authorities “harassed [Allakulov’s] party supporters and interfered in their efforts to collect signatures for registration”.
Mirziyoyev has been credited with launching what he calls a “New Uzbekistan”, ending a decades-old system of forced labour with its roots in the former Soviet Union and introducing limited media freedoms.
Mirziyoyev, who took office in 2016 after Karimov’s death, was challenged by four apparently unenthusiastic, regime-loyal candidates who did not even attend televised debates and sent proxies instead. Independent candidates were barred from standing.
Political analyst Akhmed Rahmonov said: “The other candidates talk about abstract things like strengthening social security but they don’t provide any details. They don’t have a real programme and they don’t have to because they know who will win.”
The elections commission said more than 80 percent of the electorate had voted before the polls closed.
The only other candidate who received any attention was Alisher Qodirov with his proposal that expat Uzbeks should pay taxes to Tashkent. It was a widely unpopular idea in a country where remittances make up a large proportion of the national income.
Mirziyoyev condemned the proposal and it was suggested Qodirov, whose party is in coalition with that of Mirziyoyev in the Uzbek parliament, suggested the policy to boost support for the president.
He has overseen an unprecedented boom in foreign tourism, unlocking the central Asian state’s bewitching Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.
But Uzbekistan’s political situation remains repressive with recent crackdowns on dissent, particularly on internet freedom since 2016.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported before the election said its concern was about who was eligible to stand rather than the transparency of the voting process.
“Eligibility to stand as a candidate is limited, including by length of residency and official language-proficiency requirements,” it said. “Only registered political parties can nominate a candidate and independent candidates are not allowed to run.”
Uzbekistan has incredible potential as a tourist attraction. Picture credit: Eurasia Times