Uzbekistan's Dictator Grabs Fourth Term in Opposition-Free Poll
Incumbent strongman Islam Karimov has won a universally predicted landslide with over 90 percent of the vote in Uzbekistan’s competition-free presidential election, according to preliminary results released by the Central Electoral Commission the day after the vote.
The 77-year-old incumbent swept to victory with 90.39 percent of votes cast, electoral commission chairman Mirzo-Ulugbek Abdusalomov told a briefing on March 30. Turnout, he said, was 91.08 percent.
No one had doubted Karimov would win a fourth term in an election in which he faced only three stalking horses. Akmal Saidov came a distant second with 3.08 percent of the vote followed by Khatamzhon Ketmonov with 2.92 percent, while Narimon Umarov trailed last with 2.05 percent. Karimov’s margin of victory was slightly smaller than the 90.76 percent he won last time, in 2007.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) issued some damning preliminary findings on March 30, singling out issues ranging from Karimov’s flouting of the constitution, a lack of real competition and widespread proxy voting.
“The figure of the incumbent dominated the political landscape without genuine opposition,” the OSCE said, adding that Karimov did not enjoy the legal right to stand in the election he has now won: “Despite a clear constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential terms, the Central Election Commission registered the incumbent as a candidate in contravention of the rule of law, raising doubts about its independence.”
Human rights campaigners have expressed outrage that Karimov – who has already been in office for a quarter of a century – stood again, but Uzbekistani electoral officials have argued that this election counts as his first term, because the constitution has been altered since he was last elected.
The OSCE singled out Uzbekistani press coverage of the election as problematic, since “the rigidly restrained media gave the incumbent a clear advantage.” It also said that “election commissions disregarded key legal provisions in most polling stations” its observers visited, and proxy voting “appeared to be universally practiced.”
The OSCE fielded only a limited observation mission, owing to “issues over conditions for the emergence of a genuine opposition and the conditions for campaigning, among others,” spokesman Thomas Rymer told EurasiaNet.org ahead of the vote.
Observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a post-Soviet club, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization – whose findings on elections in the post-Soviet region are always at odds with those of the OSCE – disagreed. CIS observers reported that the election had been “open, free, and democratic,” and the SCO mission said the vote had proceeded “openly and democratically.”
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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