Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 323 - (26/11/07)
Karimov picks up trumps - his own
Uzbekistan's election 'watchdog' has rolled over and cleared the way for
incumbent President Islam Karimov to seek seven more years in office, despite a
constitutional ban on third terms, being respected by Putin - and to date even
Kocharian in Armenia.
The Central Electoral Commission did not address the specifics of Karimov's
candidacy at a brief press conference to announce his and three other
candidates' registration for the December 23 election. But the commission
appears to have rejected critics' arguments that the two-term limit bars the
only president in Uzbekistan's post-Soviet history from running again.
Observers had widely predicted that Karimov would skirt that clause of the
constitution, presumably by arguing that referendums in 1995 and 2002 rendered
at least one of his two terms inapplicable. Karimov, who will turn 70 in
January, was nominated by the Liberal Democrats, one of Uzbekistan's five
registered political parties.
His stranglehold on media and other institutions makes his re-election all but
Election Commission Chairman Mirzoulugbek Abdusalomov announced that Karimov
would be joined on the ballot by three other candidates (who are generally
regarded as loyal to the current president). Indeed on past form they may
expected to ask voters to vote for Karimov as 'more worthy,' rather than
The 'rivals' are Asliddin Rustamov, from the pro-government People's Democratic
Party; Dilorom Toshmukhamedova, the country's first-ever female presidential
candidate, who was nominated by the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party;
and Akmal Saidov, who chairs a parliamentary commission on democratization and
civil society and heads the National Human Rights Center - which in this 'fear
society' tells you all you need to know about him. Saidov was put forward as
candidate from a 'citizens' group' apparently 800,000 strong (see below).
Abdusalomov said two other applicants failed to collect signatures from 5
percent (that's 800,000) of Uzbekistan's estimated 16 million eligible voters,
as required by law, but unlikely to ever be independently scrutinised.
A Long Tenure
Karimov has been in office since 1989, first as a Communist Party boss of what
was then the Uzbek Soviet republic. He was elected president in December 1991,
shortly after Uzbekistan gained independence; however a 1995 referendum extended
his first term by five years. In 2000 Karimov won a second term with nearly 92
percent of the vote, but another referendum two years later extended that
presidential stretch from five years to seven.
Unsurprisingly western election observers have never recognized any Uzbek
election as fair or democratic.
Karimov provided early operational support to the United States' "war on
terror," and his country's potential fossil fuel deposits lend it some
weight as the West seeks to diversify energy supplies.
But relations with the West have flagged since a bloody crackdown on
demonstrators in eastern Uzbekistan in May 2005 followed by Tashkent's
re-embrace of a Moscow, which is undisturbed by such horrors.