Uzbekistan to Vote in Early Presidential Elections

Today in Uzbekistan, 20 million eligible voters were called to the polls to choose one of four candidates. This is the first vote since the amendments to the constitution of Uzbekistan, which extended the term of office of the president from 5 to 7 years.

Polling stations in Uzbekistan, one of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia that gained independence in 1991, are open as of this morning at 8:00 local time (5:00 in Italy – ed.). The 20 million Uzbeks eligible to vote in these early elections were called to 10,784 polling stations. Since 2016, Uzbekistan has been headed by Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who is in his second presidential term. Mirziyoyev is viewed by observers as the “absolute favorite” of the election race. Uzbekistan decided to reschedule the presidential elections after the parliament approved a number of amendments to the Constitution of Uzbekistan: the presidential term was increased from 5 to 7 years, and 65-year-old Mirziyoyev will also be able to run as a candidate in 2030.

The election race was dominated by Mirziyoyev, whose candidacy was proposed and supported by Uzbekistan’s most powerful Liberal Democratic Party. For international observers, none of the three competitors can seriously be considered a “weighty contender.” Being in office for seven years after the death of former Soviet leader Islam Karimov, Mirziyoyev has relatively democratized the country while guaranteeing certain freedoms. In his campaign program, Mirziyoyev promised to “double Uzbekistan’s GDP, improve medical care, and guarantee the preservation of water resources” – a very burning issue for Uzbekistan that is suffering from drought. In foreign policy, Mirziyoyev wants to take cooperation between the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, Russia, and China to a “whole new” level. The Uzbek army will be strengthened and by 2030 “should be equipped with the most modern weapons and military equipment.”

While two other candidates, Ulugbek Inoyatov of the People’s Democratic Party and Rabahon Makhmudova of the Adolat (Justice) party, have focused their programs on a “peaceful, progressive, and respectful of national interests” foreign policy, the candidate of the Ecological Party, Abdushukur Hamzarov promised to strengthen the “green” agenda, which includes a total ban in Uzbekistan on products such as “single-use” plastic cups, e-cigarettes, and even gasoline and diesel cars.

It is no coincidence that issues of foreign policy and the modernization of the army were at the center of the election programs of Mirziyoyev and two other candidates. Uzbekistan shares a 150-kilometer border with Afghanistan and cannot help but be concerned about the political and social situation of its restless neighbor that again ended up in the hands of the Taliban.

To get elected in the first round, one of the four applicants must gain 50% plus one vote. The minimum voter turnout threshold that would qualify the elections as “valid and in good faith” is set at 33% of the approximately 20 million eligible voters (6.6 million). At 11 am local time (8 am in Italy), the election was declared “valid” after turnout exceeded 33.54% (6,463,874 voters). The correctness of the vote is monitored by 50 thousand Uzbek observers and more than 800 international observers sent to Uzbekistan by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and many other international structures. Two thousand journalists, 250 of whom represent international media, are accredited to the Central Election Commission in Tashkent.