Uzbek president re-elected for seven-year term in snap election

People vote in an early presidential election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on July 9, 2023 [Reuters]

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was re-elected with 87.1% of the vote on Sunday, the country’s Central Election Commission said on Monday citing preliminary results. More than 15 million voters participated in Sunday’s elections.

Mirziyoyev, who has led Central Asia’s most populous nation since 2016, called a snap election after changing the constitution through a referendum which reset his term count and extended the presidential term from five to seven years.

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev votes in an early presidential election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on July 9, 2023 [Press service of the President of Uzbekistan via Reuters]

Mirziyoyev, who ran against three largely unknown candidates from the Ecological Party, the People’s Democratic Party and the Adolat Social Democratic Party, was largely expected to secure a majority of votes.

Mirziyoyev had previously served as prime minister under his predecessor Islam Karimov, and had styled himself as a reformer since coming to power, promising to create a “New Uzbekistan”.

He had conducted long-awaited reforms that simplified taxes, removed hurdles for businesses and allowed many to solve their bureaucratic problems via petitions on the presidential website.

NGOs say human rights have also fared better under Mirziyoyev. He ended forced labour in the country’s cotton fields and released political prisoners jailed during Karimov’s long rule.

However, the current government has also been accused of seeking to weaken the country’s fledgling attempts at democracy.

Leaders in several post-Soviet states — including Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon and Karimov — have extended their terms through constitutional amendments and analysts have warned that behind his reformist image, Mirziyoyev appears to be following suit.

Campaign focused on the economy, education

Mirziyoyev’s re-election campaign has focused on the economy and education. He has said he aims to double the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) to $160bn in the near future.

Like other states in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is trying to minimise collateral damage from Western sanctions imposed against its traditional trading partner Russia over the war in Ukraine.

The Russian rouble’s weakness means Tashkent is expected to see reduced foreign exchange inflows from millions of Uzbeks who work in Russia.

Once an energy exporter, Uzbekistan now consumes more oil and gas than it produces and has been buying Russian hydrocarbons, benefitting as Moscow redirects exports away from the West.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies