Uzbekistan's Polls Close In An Election With No Opposition Parties
December 21, 2014
Uzbekistan's Central Election Commission has begun counting ballots in the country's December 21 parliamentary elections, but the outcome of the ballot is already assured -- a parliament that supports President Islam Karimov.
Uzbekistan's embattled and largely exiled opposition called for a boycott of the December 21 vote, and all four parties on the ballot back the policies of Karimov.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe deployed only a small monitoring mission for vote, citing what it described as the 'limited nature of the competition.'
According to the election commission, there are about 300 international observers, mostly from other organizations, monitoring the vote.The election commission says turnout by the time the polls closed was about 88 percent of more than 20 million registered voters.
There were 135 seats being contested in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, the Oliy Majlis.
The remaining 15 seats will automatically go to the progovernment Ecological Movement.
The four parties on the ballot are the Liberal Democratic Party, People's Democratic Party, the Democratic Party Milly Tiklanish (National Revival), and the Social Democratic Party Adolat (Justice).
Karimov has transferred some powers to parliament in recent years, including a mechanism for a vote of no confidence in the government.
Uzbekistan has long been criticized for its human rights record and its crackdown on dissent.
Earlier this month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Uzbek authorities to release everyone imprisoned on politically motivated charges under a Constitution Day amnesty.
The group also said authorities should carry out an effective investigation into the September 2014 death in custody of Nilufar Rahimjonova, a 37-year-old woman imprisoned on politically motivated charges.
'The Uzbek government has imprisoned and tortured some of the world's longest-held political activists, independent journalists, and other peaceful figures,' said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at HRW.
Ahead of the polls, a Germany-based news website focusing on Uzbekistan closed down, a month after it accused the Uzbek government of hacking the chief editor's computer and e-mail account and publishing the names of some of its contributors inside Uzbekistan.
The website of uznews.net carried an announcement on December 20 which said the site has 'ceased to exist.'
Chief editor Galima Bukharbaeva, who lives in Germany, accused Uzbek security agents of the hacking.
Information taken from her computer subsequently appeared on social media sites and included invoices for payment of contributor fees to about a dozen uznews.net journalists inside Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is expected to conduct its next presidential election in March 2015.
Karimov, 76, indicated in May that he wants to run again.
Karimov, who has ruled the country during the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, was elected to his current seven-year term in December 2007.
In 2012, the parliament amended the constitution to shorten the presidential term from seven to five years.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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