Uzbek President heads for landslide election victory

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Uzbeks are voting in a presidential election which the incumbent president is expected to win in the face of weak competition.

Although Shavkat Mirziyoyev relaxed many of the policies of his dictatorial predecessor, he made little effort in political reform.

Mr Mirziyoyev, who took office in 2016 after the death of Islam Karimov, faces four relatively inconspicuous candidates who did not even show up for televised debates, instead sending proxies who did not hire substantial discussions. Independent candidates were not allowed.

Election in Uzbekistan
Shavkat Mirziyoyev is set to win a new term as president by a landslide against weak competition in Sunday’s election (Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool Photo / AP)

The only challenger to Mirziyoyev who garnered attention in the campaign was Alisher Qodirov, with his proposition that Uzbeks working abroad should pay taxes in Uzbekistan, a widely unpopular idea among the large part of the population that depends income of family members abroad.

Mr Mirziyoyev openly disapproved of the proposal and some observers suggested that Mr Qodirov, whose party is in coalition with that of Mr Mirziyoyev in parliament, did so in order to channel votes towards the outgoing president.

Election in Uzbekistan
People queue to vote at a polling station in Tashkent (AP)

He also relaxed strict controls on Islam in the Muslim-majority country that Mr Karimov imposed to counter dissenting views.

He also lifted hard currency controls, encouraging investment from abroad, and set about repairing foreign relations that deteriorated under Mr. Karimov.

“Mirziyoyev has improved relations with global players such as Russia, China and the West, while resolving conflicts with neighbors, including establishing peaceful interaction with Afghanistan,” said Andrey Kazantsev, of the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations.

Uzbekistan and Afghanistan share an 89 mile (144 km) border, and Uzbekistan has always feared the conflict could spill over.

The former Soviet foreign minister became the first foreign affairs official to visit Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country in August.


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