Uzbekistan will hold a snap presidential election on Sunday, a vote that follows a constitutional referendum extending the incumbent’s term from five to seven years.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected in 2021 to a second five-year term, the limit allowed by the constitution. But amendments passed in the April referendum have allowed him to start counting terms again and run for two more terms, raising the possibility that he could stay in office until 2037.
Mirziyoyev, 65, will win an overwhelming vote against three token opponents.
“The political landscape remains unchanged and no political party in parliament openly opposes the president’s policies and agenda,” said the election-watching arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Europe said in a report ahead of the vote.
Since coming to power in 2016 following the death of longtime dictator Islam Karimov, Mirziyoyev has introduced a series of economic and political reforms aimed at loosening some of his predecessor’s draconian policies. who turned Uzbekistan into one of the most repressive countries in the region.
Under Mirziyoyev, freedom of expression was extended compared to the complete repression of dissidents during Karimov’s time, and a number of independent news media and bloggers emerged presently. He also eased tight controls on Islam in the Muslim-majority country that Karimov had imposed to counter dissent.
At the same time, Uzbekistan maintains a strong authoritarian regime without significant opposition. All registered political parties are loyal to Mirziyoyev.
In the April referendum, more than 90% of those who voted voted in favor of the amendments extending the presidential term.
As part of his reforms, Mirziyoyev deregulated state regulation of cotton production and sales, ending decades of forced labor in the country’s cotton industry, a major source of export earnings. . Under Karimov, more than 2 million Uzbeks were forced to work in the annual cotton harvest.
Mirziyoyev also lifted hard currency controls, encouraged investment from abroad, and moved to improve relations with the West that had soured under Karimov. He has maintained close relations with Russia and signed a number of important agreements with China, which has become Uzbekistan’s largest trading partner under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Like the leaders of other former Soviet Central Asian states with close economic ties to Moscow, Mirziyoyev made a delicate balancing act after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, avoiding favoring the move. Russia’s action but did not condemn it either.