Uzbek Incumbent Wins Presidential Poll Without 'Genuine Choice'
Incumbent Uzbek President Islam Karimov has won the country's presidential vote. But some international monitors say the poll was far from meeting democratic standards.
The preliminary results of the December 23 presidential election in Uzbekistan were made public today. Mirzo-Ulughbek Abdusalomov, the head of Uzbekistan's Central Election Commission (CEC), said Karimov received just over 13 million votes, which gave the incumbent 88.1 percent of the total ballots cast in the poll.
Not Even Close
Karimov's next closest competitor, Asliddin Rustamov of the People's Democratic Party, received 3.7 percent of the vote. Following them were Diloram Tashmukhamedov of the Adolat Social-Democratic Party with 2.94 percent, and rights activist and independent candidate Akmal Saidov with 2.85 percent.
The CEC reported that 90.6 percent of the nation's 16.2 million voters cast ballots in the December 23 poll. While that figure may seem high it is actually the lowest turnout percentage for presidential elections in Uzbekistan's history. In the 1992 elections, the official reported turnout was 98 percent and in 2000 it was 92 percent.
Karimov ran despite a constitutional restriction against any person being president for more than two terms. Karimov was elected in 1992 and 2000 and had both those terms in office extended through referendums in 1995 and 2002. Opposition and rights groups criticized Karimov's run for a third term.
Uzbekistan's CEC said there were no serious violations reported at polling stations around the country, though witnesses reported seeing individuals casting multiple ballots. Some rights activists in Uzbekistan are also questioning the reported high turnout since several sources reported low voter activity in many regions.
Short Of Democratic Standards
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released their preliminary assessment today, saying that the election "did not offer a genuine choice."
Urdur Gunnarsdottir, a spokesperson for the OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the department that monitors elections, said the "election was held in a very controlled political environment, which did not really leave much room for real opposition and this election failed to meet many of the commitments that OSCE states have made to hold democratic elections."
Gunnarsdottir said while ODIHR noted some positive aspects in Uzbekistan's presidential election such as the fact that " you had more than one candidate, you had four candidates." But she said this progress was diminished because "when you have these candidates endorsing, publicly endorsing the incumbent president, then that in reality deprives the electorate of choice."
Election monitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization sided with Uzbekistan's CEC in qualifying the elections as free, fair, and transparent.
(RFE/RL's Uzbek Service contributed to this report.)
Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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