Uzbekistan holds presidential election to secure president’s extended rule


Uzbekistan has conducted its presidential election on Sunday, signaling a likely third term for incumbent President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has governed the resource-rich Central Asian nation. Mirziyoyev, aged 65, has campaigned on promises to attract foreign investments and promote tourism, pledging to open up the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Having previously served as the prime minister under the hardline leadership of Islam Karimov, Mirziyoyev won his first term in 2016 and secured reelection in 2021. This year, a constitutional referendum paved the way for him to potentially serve two additional presidential terms, effectively extending his mandate from five years to seven. Consequently, President Mirziyoyev could remain in power until 2037.

Polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0300 GMT) in the capital city of Tashkent and will remain open until 8:00 pm. Although three relatively unknown candidates are running against Mirziyoyev, all individuals interviewed by Agence France-Presse (AFP) expressed their intention to vote for the incumbent president. One voter, 18-year-old Milana Yuldasheva, highlighted her support for Mirziyoyev’s candidacy, emphasizing the need for increased opportunities and educational options for the country’s youth. Another citizen, 64-year-old Abduali Nurmatov, expressed hope that the president would address ongoing issues with gas and electricity supply in his town, which experienced frequent cuts during the previous winter.

Uzbekistan, with a population of around 20 million, is Central Asia’s most populous country and shares a border with Afghanistan. President Mirziyoyev, positioning himself as a reformer, seeks to shape a “New Uzbekistan.” Under his leadership, forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields has been eradicated, and political prisoners detained during Karimov’s lengthy rule have been released. Although human rights have improved compared to the Karimov era, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) assert that further progress is necessary. The authorities have yet to allow the emergence of a genuine opposition.

Political expert Farkhod Talipov, speaking to AFP prior to the election, stated that the victory of the incumbent president appeared inevitable. Talipov underscored the lack of popularity and recognition among the other candidates, characterizing their candidacies as a mere façade of political competition without substance.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) commented on the campaign’s lack of opposition, describing it as “low-key” and reflecting the absence of significant challengers to the incumbent.

In July 2022, protests erupted in the northwestern territory of Karakalpakstan over plans to curtail the right to self-determination in the region. The subsequent crackdown by authorities resulted in the deaths of at least 21 individuals.

Mirziyoyev’s reelection campaign has been primarily focused on the economy and education. He has set an ambitious goal of doubling Uzbekistan’s gross domestic product to $160 billion in the near future.

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