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Uzbekistan: Karimov Surfaces to Kickstart His Re-Election Campaign

President Islam Karimov has hit the campaign trail in Uzbekistan, after several weeks of absence from public life sparked rumors that the septuagenarian leader’s health was failing ahead of a presidential election next month.
 
Karimov appeared on state television late on February 19 campaigning in the southern region of Qashqadaryo, a source in Tashkent told EurasiaNet.org. TV footage showed the president addressing a meeting of several hundred voters in the city of Qarshi, after Uzbekistani media reported – citing a source in the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party of Uzbekistan – that he had left for Qashqadaryo and other regions to campaign.
 
Karimov had last been seen in public on January 27, when he received the credentials of incoming US Ambassador Pamela Spratlen. On February 6 he reportedly presented his election manifesto to the Liberal-Democratic Party, which he heads and which has nominated him to stand in the presidential election on March 29. But Uzbekistani TV did not broadcast footage of that appearance until February 18.
 
In that speech, he railed against the USSR as a “a system of totalitarianism and repression,” accorded to translated excerpts emailed by the US Embassy in Tashkent the next day.
 
Karimov’s unusually long absence from TV screens had fueled rumors that the health of the 77-year-old president was failing, helped along by reports on an opposition website notorious for planting canards about his imminent demise that he had fallen into a coma.
 
Now he has finally hit the campaign trail. But his absence from public life, lasting over three weeks, has still left Tashkent watchers wondering where he has been.

Uzbekistan: Karimov Surfaces to Kickstart His Re-Election Campaign

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