Shavkat Mirziyoyev emerged as the successor to Islam Karimov who had ruled the former Soviet republic since independence in 1989. The size of the expected victory will be an indicator of prospects for reform.
Polling stations in Uzbekistan, which lies between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan on the ancient Silk Road trading route from China to Europe, closed at 8 p.m. (1500 UTC) on Sunday. Afghanistan lies just to the south of the Muslim nation.
Some 87.8 percent of Uzbekistan's more than 20 million voters had cast their ballots, the Central Election Commission (CEC) reported. Results were due at 4 p.m. (1100 UTC) on Monday, it said. "Our people have shown high political activity," CEC chairman Mirzo-Ulugbek Abdusalomov told reporters on Sunday.
Head of the OSCE Election Observation Mission in Uzbekistan Peter Tejler tweeted on Sunday from a polling station:
The 28-year-rule of President Islam Karimov ended suddenly in September when he died of complications from a stroke. It was his long-term prime minister Mirziyoyev (photo) who organized the funeral and met with President Vladimir Putin while the Russian leader paid his respects at the grave.
Mirziyoyev described Putin as a "real friend" at the time."We can say now that Uzbekistan has always considered and will always consider its relationship with Russia as a strategic partnership and Russia as an allied country," Mirziyoyev said, according to a Kremlin transcript of their meeting.
Reform and alliances?
Mirziyoyev, who was appointed prime minister in 2003, became interim president following Karimov's death.
The nominees of three parliamentary parties - Khatamjon Ketmonov, Narimon Umarov and Sarvar Otamuratov - presented themselves as opposition candidates. But since the speaker of the upper chamber Senate stepped aside for him, Mirziyoyev's victory seemed assured.
In the run-up to Sunday's poll, Mirziyoyev created an online forum for public complaints and pledged to prioritize economic reforms. The size of the expected victory will be an indicator of the reforms. Under Karimov, his election victories were recorded at 90 percent of the vote or more. Should the Mirziyoyev result be more in the region of 65 to 70 percent of the vote, it may open up the way to a less centralized control of state power.
There have been indications that the 59-year-old trained engineer and former governor of two regions may have agreed to share power in some form with Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov and security chief Rustam Inoyatov.
Closer ties between Tashkent and Moscow
Links between the former Soviet state and Moscow are expected to strengthen if the former Soviet administrator's election is confirmed. At least two million Uzbeks work abroad, mostly in Russia.
A major exporter of natural gas and cotton, while Uzbekistan has maintained its links with Moscow it has also provided the US with elements of a base for its war in Afghanistan. Thousands of Uzbeks are believed to have joined so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Uzbekistan is strategically important in the fight against drug trafficking and international terrorism.
jm/rc (Reuters, dpa)