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Uzbekistan passes reform extending president's term limit

May 1, 2023

In a referendum, Uzbekistan passed a package of constitutional amendments that could allow President Mirziyoyev Shavkat to run for two more terms.

Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev could remain in power in Uzbekistan until 2040Image: Mukhtar Kholdorbekov/File Photo/REUTERS

Uzbekistan adopted a package of constitutional amendments with 90.21% of the vote in Sunday's referendum, the Central Election Commission said on Monday, citing preliminary data. Voter turnout is reported to be around 85%.

The reform resets President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's term count and will allow him to run for two more 7-year terms, potentially remaining in power until 2040. His current mandate was set to expire in elections scheduled for 2026.

Several other autocratic leaders, such as Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have undertaken similar measures to extend their roughly 20-year periods in power.

Mirziyoyev's way to power

Islam Karimov, the former president of Uzbekistan, died in 2016 after a brutal rule for over a quarter of a century.

Mirziyoyev, who was his loyal prime minister for 13 years, rose to power the same year. He won a second term with 80% of the vote in October 2021.

Today he projects himself as a much more progressive figure and spearheaded multiple reforms in the country, including a crackdown on forced labor in cotton fields and criminalizing domestic violence.

Uzbekistan - Traveling the Silk Road by train

Reformer who doesn't like opposition

Mirziyoyev has also opened up Uzbekistan's economy, greatly improved ties with the West and curbed the powers of security services, whose dominance had in previous decades turned the country of 35 million into a police state.

However, activists allege that rights abuses continue and authorities are not allowing the emergence of an opposition.

Rights activists also accuse the authorities of using lethal force and killing 21 people during  demonstrations in 2022.

dh/fb (AFP, Reuters)