09/01/2016, 10.48
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Uzbekistan’s Karimov perhaps dead. Independence Day speech read by a presenter

Islam Karimov was hospitalized for three days to cerebral hemorrhage. Traditionally, the president’s health is shrouded by the most absolute secrecy. If confirmed dead, the country should go to elections within three months. The names of the "eligible candidates" successors to the throne.

Tashkent (AsiaNews) - Today we celebrate the 25th anniversary of independence in Uzbekistan, amid persistent  rumors about the alleged death of President Islam Karimov, who was hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage. His speech to the nation, which for years was proud pronounced by the Head of State, yesterday was read by a television presenter. The episode raises suspicions about the death of the dictator, the country's leader since 1989, even before the state got its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Islam Karimov, 78, has been hospitalized since August 28. Any news on his condition has always been shrouded in absolute secrecy, to avoid damaging his image. But this time was his daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, to announce her father's hospitalization. On her Instagram profile, the woman wrote that Karimov’s "conditions are considered stable" and invited all to "refrain from speculation."

The fact that it was the same president's daughter to talk about her father's illness leads experts to believe that the situation is more serious than many people would have understood. If his death is confirmed, the Constitution provides that the head of the Senate takes up the interim functions of the President and that new elections are held within three months.

Karimov has dominated Uzbek policy since 1989, when he emerged as a leader of the Communist Party. The following year he was elected president and in 1991 the country gained independence. Thanks to his iron fist he has managed to lengthen the presidential term twice (1995 and 2002) and to be re-elected in two rounds (2007 and 2015). During the last vote in March 2015, contested by international observers, he gained more than 90% of the vote.

The President, like his colleagues of the former Soviet Republics, is known for the suppression of all forms of dissent: social activists, politicians and journalists who denounce the exploitation of children in the cotton fields, control over the media and other aspects of life are arrested, tortured and forced into silence. Uzbekistan is also the 166th place (out of 174) in the ranking of most corrupt countries in the world and 166th (of 180) among the ones that limit press freedom.

While his daughter Lola wrote yesterday on her  Facebook profile that the many messages of congratulations of the population "are helping" the President , for days the names of successors to the throne have been alternating, after the main candidate, his favorite daughter Gulnara , was buried under a corruption scandal of international telephone companies that in 2014.

After the fall in misfortune of the woman,  the figure of Lola emerged, Uzbekistan's ambassador to UNESCO in Paris. These days the names of three other "eligible candidate" successors to the throne are also doing the rounds: that of Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev, 58, took office in 2003, considered by many to even more repressive than Karimov; Rustam Azimov, 56, finance minister and an expert on foreign affairs; Rustam Inoyatov, 72, head of the Commission for National Security, the least probable of the three.

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