Uzbekistan's Karimov wins re-election with 90% vote

By bne IntelliNews March 30, 2015

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Uzbekistan's strongman president, Islam Karimov, won the March 29 election with 90.4% of the vote on a 91.1% turnout, according to the preliminary results announced by the Central Electoral Commission on March 30.

"A total of 17.2mn people or 90.39% of voters who took part in the election voted for Islam Karimov," the commission's chairman, Mirzo-Ulugbek Abdusalomov, told a news conference in Tashkent.

According to the law, only registered political parties are eligible to nominate candidates for president. Karimov stood from the favoured Liberal Democratic party (UzLiDeP). Stalking-horse candidates from a further three parties registered in Uzbekistan received between 2.05% and 3.08% of the votes, Abdusalomov said.

This comes as no surprise as voters complained during the election campaign they did not know enough about the alternative candidates, and if they knew, they were not sure that the candidates would even vote for themselves. An unofficial observer told bne IntelliNews the campaign did not look like "a real election campaign with proper competition" and other candidates had behaved as if they campaigned for Karimov.

Most voters bne IntelliNews talked to said they would still vote for the incumbent because they saw no alternatives, partly because of state propaganda, which presented Karimov as the best guarantee of stability.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) deployed a limited election observation mission which said in a statement on March 30 that the election had been held with "persistent legal and organisational shortcomings". It also pointed out the incumbent's breach of a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms and raised doubts about the independence of the Central Election Commission which nevertheless registered Karimov as a candidate.

"The rigidly restrained media gave the incumbent a clear advantage," the statement said, adding that "proxy voting on behalf of several voters appeared to be universally practised". The election monitoring mission also said that electoral commissions at polling stations had not established the number of signatures of voters on the voter lists and had not matched it with the number of ballot papers cast, pointing to vote rigging and ballot stuffing.

"The electoral legal framework does not provide for the conduct of democratic elections, as a number of provisions contravene OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards, and laws and supplementary regulations contain contradictory norms," the mission said. "The possibility to stand as an independent candidate has been abolished since the last election. Some previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations were addressed by regulations; however, fundamental freedoms of association and expression remain effectively curtailed," it concluded.

Uzbekistan has never held presidential or parliamentary election regarded as free and fair by the OSCE.

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