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Uzbekistan presidential vote ‘not truly competitive’: observers

By AFP
25 October 2021   |   12:07 pm
Uzbekistan elections set to deliver an easy victory to President Shavkat Mirziyoyev were "not truly competitive" despite reforms in the Central Asian country, an international monitoring mission said Monday.

Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box to count votes in Uzbekistan’s presidential election at a polling station in Tashkent on October 24, 2021. (Photo by VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO / AFP)

Uzbekistan elections set to deliver an easy victory to President Shavkat Mirziyoyev were “not truly competitive” despite reforms in the Central Asian country, an international monitoring mission said Monday.

Mirziyoyev is expected to crush four token candidates plucked from government-loyal parties, with a would-be independent challenger effectively excluded from the race.

The mission led by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe criticised “the lack of genuine pluralism and meaningful engagement between candidates or with citizens” and also pointed to shortcomings in electoral legislation.

“Despite recent welcome reforms… Uzbekistan’s presidential election was not truly competitive, while significant procedural irregularities were noted on election day,” the mission said in a statement.

Before official election results were announced, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Uzbek leader earlier Monday and congratulated him on “a convincing victory,” the Kremlin said.

The Central Election Commission said that official results were expected to be made public at 4:00 pm local time (1100 GMT).

Mirziyoyev has been credited with launching what he calls a “New Uzbekistan” programme, ending a decades-old system of forced labour with roots in the former Soviet Union and introducing limited media freedoms.

But like Karimov, the new leader has sidestepped political reforms that would allow any alternative to his rule.

A would-be independent challenger, academic Khidirnazar Allakulov, fell at the first hurdle after failing to register a party that could nominate him.

Heidi Hautala, who headed the European Parliament’s delegation in the monitoring mission, criticised “the exclusion of opposition parties and the lack of genuine competition” as “substantial obstacles in the path of the democratisation process.”