Tashkent: Mirziyoyev re-elected president with over 80% approval
Victory a foregone conclusion: main opponents excluded from running. The 'ally' presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan congratulate the Uzbek head of state. In the last five years the economic situation in the country has improved, less so the human rights situation.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The victory of Uzbekistan's President Šavkat Mirziyoyev in the presidential elections on October 24 was a foregone conclusion. The Uzbek head of state won 80.1% of the vote, according to official figures. The other candidates shared a few percentage points: Maksuda Vorisova of the Popular Democratic Party collected 6.6% of the vote, Ališer Kodirov of the Democratic Party 5.5%, Narzullah Oblomuradov of the Ecological Party 4.1% and Bakhrom Abdukhalimov of the Social Democratic Party "Adolat" 3.4%.
Eighty per cent of the eligible voters took part: over 16 million out of a total of 20 million. However, several commentators noted that the Uzbek elections were not competitive, as the authorities had excluded several opposition figures from the competition. The other candidates in the running were all members of pro-government parties.
Without waiting for the official proclamation by the electoral committee, the "ally" presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan congratulated Mirziyoyev. Vladimir Putin expressed to his colleague his "satisfaction with the convincing victory", assuring further developments in strategic cooperation and partnership between Moscow and Tashkent.
According to the head of the Election Committee Zajnuddin Nizamkhodžaev, the elections 'took place in full compliance with the law and democratic principles, without any violation of norms'. However, independent journalists, as reported by Currentime.tv, spread reports of fraud at several polling stations, with pre-filled ballot papers being inserted into the ballot boxes.
During Friday Muslim prayers on the eve of the elections, several imams proclaimed in their homilies that participation in the vote is a "vadžib amalem", a religious duty, urging people not to heed the calls spread by social networks to desert the polls in order to undermine the authority of the president's confirmation.
Mirziyoyev's first five years have been quite convincing, although not without scandals involving corruption. Independent media have repeatedly revealed the embezzlement of various members of the president's family, who have repeatedly embezzled funds from the state budget for private deals and rigged tenders. The president himself has surrounded himself with oligarchs and businessmen of various kinds, organising a system of mutual protection.
The country's general economic situation, however, seems better than five years ago, as former deputy finance minister Abdullah Abdukadyrov told Currentime: 'Uzbekistan has become more attractive to international investors and has acquired a more central role in the geopolitical games of the whole of Central Asia'.
He expected a change of course in the defence of human rights, which has only happened in part, as activist Umida Nijazova says: "We cannot deny that something has changed, there is greater freedom of the press compared to the time of Islam Karimov, but Uzbekistan remains a classic authoritarian regime, as these elections also confirm".
In recent days, the arrest of Uzbekistan's 'champion of migrants', Valentina Čupik, who was held in solitary confinement for ten days at Moscow's Šeremetevo airport before being released to take refuge in Yerevan, Armenia, caused a stir. Čupik cannot return to Tashkent, and now not even to Russia, where she has tried for years to protect Uzbek migrants, and warns that "the situation in Uzbekistan will not change until the state starts to defend our migrants, activating serious diplomatic work in Russia and other countries." According to Čupik, many Uzbek workers abroad are kept in a real regime of slavery, without the state taking responsibility.
The democratic reforms promised by Mirziyoyev are still far from being realised, to get out of the "post-Soviet" condition of Karimov's long reign (1991-2016). One of the opponents excluded from the elections, the anti-corruption professor Khindirnazar Allakulov, is still the subject of judicial persecution along with his family. A former rector of Termez University, he advocates the need to 'unite Uzbek society in the fight against the corruption that pervades all institutions, but the elections show that we are still dominated by a fear of public action'. For Allakulov, many Uzbeks 'are unhappy and sceptical about Mirziyoyev's promises, and I don't think that so many people really went to the polls'.