SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 18 April 2024, Thursday |

Uzbekistan presidential election: No choice amid apathy and heat

The cruelest month in Uzbekistan is July. Uzbeks may desire to remain indoors due to the savage, oppressive heat rather than venture outside at all.

Millions of farmers begin caring for their plants or cattle early daybreak while the air is still frigid since those who could afford to travel to cooler climates are long gone.

Many Uzbeks would prefer to stay in their air-conditioned homes on Sunday, even though for weeks they have been urged to cast their vote in the snap presidential election.

“Are you joking? I’m not going anywhere. My vote means nothing anyway,” Karim, a 27-year-old who sells mobile phone cases from a tiny kiosk in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, told Al Jazeera.

For more than three decades of Uzbekistan’s independence, presidential votes were held in early December. The snap vote being held in a “dead season” is deliberate, said Timur Numanov, a popular political blogger.

“Authorities did everything to kill interest to these snap non-elections,” he said.

‘No-names’

The election was announced in May after constitutional amendments “annulled” the previous and current terms of incumbent President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The amendments also extended the future terms from five to seven years, allowing him to stay in power until 2037, when he would have turned 79.

Few doubt that Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan’s second president since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, will lose the vote.

His predecessor, Islam Karimov, extended his terms through amendments and referendums, while his rivals were little-known politicians fielded by pro-government parties.

 

The real opposition and government critics were either jailed or forced out of the ex-Soviet nation of 36 million.

After Karimov’s death in 2016, Mirziyoyev conducted long-awaited reforms that simplified taxes, removed hurdles for businesses and allowed many to solve their bureaucratic problems via petitions on the presidential website.

“Things are much easier now, there’s less paperwork and pressure,” Abdusattar Yolchiyev told Al Jazeera.

“Under Karimov, if you paid taxes according to all the regulations, you lost all your income and had to pay extra,” said the 51-year-old owner of a stationary shop in Tashkent.

Miriyoyev also purged the ranks of prosecutors and security officers, closed down an infamous prison where two dissidents had been boiled alive, and released political prisoners and Muslims jailed for alleged “extremism”.

But he eventually returned to Karimov’s iron-fisted policies and has preferred to have obscure figures run against him in Sunday’s vote.

“This time, absolute no-names are fielded as alternative candidates. Their campaigning is only seen on look-alive banners, and no one raises any urgent topics,” Numanov said.

Robakhon Makhmudova, deputy chairwoman of the Supreme Court and one of the “no-names” fielded by the Adolat (Justice) party, has pledged in her laconic campaign leaflets to build a “just” Uzbekistan and make healthcare free for everyone.

Ulugbek Inoyatov, another presidential aspirant, has proclaimed his main goal is “to form a democratic, social state that meets the criteria of social justice, social equality and democracy”.

Inoyatov is a former education minister Mirziyoyev fired in 2018 for a “lack of initiative, corruption in school and outdated views”.

Former forestry official Abdushukur Khamzayev of the Ecological Party wants to curb cigarette use and stop selling cars with combustion engines in 2030.

He also wants to ban the use of cars every Friday, even though many men flock to mosques that are far away from their homes or work.

    Source:
  • Aljazeera