Presidential election campaign kicks off in Uzbekistan with Mirziyoyev certain to be re-elected
by Vladimir Rozanskij

The presidential vote is set for 24 October. Only pro-government parties have been allowed to run candidates. In Central Asia, the Uzbek president is seen as an authoritative leader. Both China and the West appreciate his economic overtures. Any opposition was liquidated under the “Father of the nation” Karimov.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – The campaign to elect Uzbekistan’s next president on 24 October is underway. Only candidates picked by political parties can run; independents are excluded.

Five, pro-government parties registered with the Ministry of Justice will run a candidate: the Uzbekistan National Revival Democratic Party[*] (Milliy Tiklanish), the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan,[†] the Justice Social Democratic Party (Adolat),[‡] the incumbent president’s Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party (UzLiDeP),[§] and the Ecological Party of Uzbekistan.[**]

Two opposition parties, the Liberty (Erk) Democratic Party[††] and the Truth and Progress Social Democratic Party[‡‡] were not allowed to register. Clearly their views diverged too much from the "general line" set by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to be allowed to join the race.

The president’s re-election is not in doubt given the lack of real political opposition, while the country’s majoritarian democracy guarantees its stability.

For the campaign, Uzbekistan’s Central Electoral Commission has invited observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Uzbek authorities also plan to allow envoys from other governments and other international bodies to celebrate the country’s “democratic calm”. Uzbeks abroad at the time of the vote will be able to cast their ballot at all Uzbek consular offices and diplomatic missions.

For Mirziyoyev, this is a second term. In 2016, he replaced Islam Karimov, the country's historic first president, who suffered a fatal stroke after 27 years in power. His re-election is certain given the absence of credible alternatives.

Yet, his political success does not depend only on Uzbekistan’s post-Soviet legacy and the tradition of quasi one-man rule. Mirziyoyev has also shown to be Central Asia’s most effective leader, introducing major reforms without causing waves across the country.

Upon coming to power, the Uzbek president quickly ended all conflicts with neighbouring countries. In the difficult context of post-Soviet Asia, his foreign policy has been quite effective, opening up the country to the outside, allowing for instance business transactions in foreign currencies.

This has enabled Uzbekistan to attract foreign investment, not only from powerful China, but also the West. Almost all political prisoners have been released, and a lot of leeway has been granted to the mass media.

All these overtures cannot hide however the devotion to the "Father of the Nation" Karimov, who ruled with a tight fist. In fact, the rare critics who dare to speak out note that Mirziyoyev granted more freedom in the economic sphere than in the country’s political life since all forms of opposition have been marginalised.

Given Central Asia’s current political situation, soon to be tested by the mounting crisis in Afghanistan, Mirziyoyev is not likely to make more concessions at home, especially in light of what is happening in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, which goes through major crises every two to three years.

As for corruption, the other countries of region, starting with “Big Brother" Kazakhstan, have much higher levels than Uzbekistan.

At the same time, Mirziyoyev does not have to do much to contain the opposition since Karimov had already liquidated it.

Even if someone did try to oppose government policy, they would lack the means and knowhow to counter it.

In his first re-election bid, the incumbent can expect to win at least 80 per cent of the vote, like in good old Soviet times; enough to make leaders like Putin and Lukashenko envious.

[*] Oʻzbekiston “Milliy Tiklanish” Demokratik Partiyasi.

[†] O'zbekistan Xalq Demokratik Partiyasi.

[‡] Adolat Sotsial Demokratik Partiyasi.

[§] Oʻzbekiston Liberal Demokratik Partiyasi (Oʻzlidep).

[**] O`zbekiston Ekologik Partiyasi.

[††] Erk Demokratik Partiyasi.

[‡‡] Haqiqat va Taraqqiyot Sotsial-Demokratik Partiyasi.