Voters in Uzbekistan are heading to the polls on Sunday, in parliamentary elections that will test the government’s commitment to democratic reforms.
The former Soviet republic had been under strict authoritarian rule for 27 years, until the death of strongman Islam Karimov in 2016. He lead a restrictive regime in Uzbekistan, which was known internationally for allegations of human rights abuses that killings and torture.
Following Karimov’s death, his prime minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected president, in elections that the OSCE said had “serious irregularities” and possibly ballot stuffing.
Once in power, Mirziyoyev has pledged to open up the resource-rich nation from its decades of near-isolation. He promised to liberalize both the economic and political systems.
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Sunday’s elections are being held under the slogan “New Uzbekistan, new elections,” as authorities seek to brand them as the latest example of post-Karimov era reforms.
Voters will get to select a new 150-member parliament. The election is being held under a modernized legal framework, where televised debates between competing parties were allowed.
Five competing parties will be vying for the legislature; among them are the Liberal Democrats who nominated Mirziyoyev for presidency in 2016, the Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival) party, the People’s Democratic Party, the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party, and the green Ecological Party.
But all five have given President Mirziyoyev their support already, likely allowing him to enjoy a parliament that is favorable to him, no matter the outcome.
Uzbekistan is the second largest economy of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Some 20 million of its 33 million in habitants will be eligible to vote.
jcg (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)