Elections in Uzbekistan, Mirziyoyev Wins

There were no surprises or twists in the early presidential elections that took place yesterday in Uzbekistan, one of the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. As expected, outgoing President Shavkat Mirziyoyev again scored a convincing victory in the first round, gaining more than 87% of the vote. Three of his “rivals” scored from 3.74% to 4.43% of the vote.

Uzbekistan, the former “cotton kingdom” of the USSR, with its 35 million inhabitants, is the most populous state in Central Asia. The country is landlocked and forced to use some ports in Russia and Iran for its foreign trade. According to Uzbekistan’s Central Electoral Commission, voter turnout was “exceptional”: of the 20 million citizens eligible to vote, 79.8% – more than 15.6 million voters – came to the 10,784 polling stations.

Elected in 2016 with 88.61% of the vote and then confirmed with 80.12% in 2021 on ballots that were criticized by international observers for lack of competition, the Uzbek leader once again faced candidates little known to the general public.

On April 30 last year, in a popular referendum on amendments to the Constitution of Uzbekistan, 65-year-old Mirziyoyev asked for and received an extension of the presidential term from five to seven years, which would theoretically allow him to remain in office for two more terms – from 2023 to 2030 and from 2030 to 2037.

“The sitting president’s victory was taken for granted,” said Farhod Talipov, an expert in Uzbek domestic politics, to French news agency AFP, adding, “all the other candidates were completely unknown.”

The slogan for Mirziyoyev’s campaign was “New Uzbekistan.” Since coming to power seven years ago, Mirziyoyev has launched some political and economic reforms that have opened up his country to the world after a quarter-century of isolation under authoritarian Soviet-style leader Islam Karimov, with whom the current president of Uzbekistan has been prime minister for 13 years.

On Monday, international observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held a press conference in Tashkent, where they reported on the electoral process, exposing some minor voting irregularities.