Uzbekistan votes as incumbent strongman guaranteed victory | News | DW | 24.10.2021

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Uzbekistan votes as incumbent strongman guaranteed victory

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, once praised for his reforms, has ensured he faces no real challenge at the polls.

A woman votes in Uzbekistan's presidential election

Only five political parties are allowed to contest the election. All are loyal to the president

Voters in Uzbekistan headed to the polls on Sunday, although strongman Shavkat Mirziyoyev faced no real challenger as he sought a second term in office.

Mirziyoyev has ruled the landlocked former Soviet nation since 2016, when his mentor, Islam Karimov, died after running the country with an iron fist for 27 years.

The vote comes at time when Uzbekistan is caught between a tourism boom and maintaining security on its border with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, as well as Mirziyoyev's attempts to modernize the country while also continuing the authoritarianism implemented by his predecessor.

Watch video 03:25

Uzbek activists seek more political pluralism

'New Uzbekistan' a lot like the old one

When he came to power, Mirziyoyev promised a "new Uzbekistan." He ended an internationally condemned system of forced labor in the country's cotton fields, which often saw schoolchildren made to pick cotton alongside their teachers. He also allowed limited media freedoms, including letting some foreign media back into the country.

He initially presided over an economic upturn, but wages have again stagnated as unemployment and living costs have risen.

Furthermore, Mirziyoyev stopped short of allowing reforms that would present him with any real political opposition. His four nominal opponents are regime loyalists plucked from the country's rubber-stamp parliament

Khidirnazar Allakulov, an academic, tried to present a real challenge to the incumbent president but found he could not register a political party for which he could run.

Human Rights Watch said earlier in October that regime officials had "harassed [Allakulov's] party supporters and interfered in their efforts to collect signatures for registration."

es/aw (AFP, Reuters)