Uzbekistan President Wins Election
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) _ Incumbent President Islam Karimov overwhelmingly won election to a second term in Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous nation, according to initial results released today.
Karimov, Uzbekistan’s leader since 1991, took 91.9 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said today. Karimov’s only opponent, Abdulkhafiz Dzhalalov, won 4.17 percent.
Karimov had been expected to easily win the vote in Uzbekistan, a country of 24 million. Even Dzhalalov acknowledged he had voted for the incumbent.
The final results will be announced later this month, but were not expected to change much. According to election officials, 95.1 percent of Uzbekistan’s 12.7 million registered voters cast their ballots.
Karimov was nominated by the Fidokorlar (The Dedicated) party. Uzbekistan’s former Communist party boss, he was elected to lead the country shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. A 1995 referendum extended his term to 2000.
Dzhalalov is also a former Communist Party official.
Though human rights groups have criticized Karimov for his hard-line rule, he is relatively popular in part for maintaining political stability and avoiding the upheaval and violence experienced by many other former Soviet republics.
There were 120 foreign observers monitoring the vote, and there were no immediate reports of election violations.
All opposition parties in Uzbekistan are banned, censorship is tight, and dissidents are either locked up or have been forced to emigrate. The practice of Islam is tightly controlled by state-approved clerics, and critic’s say Karimov’s crackdown on suspected Muslim extremists has resulted in persecution of peaceable believers.
Uzbekistan is rich in gold, uranium, other mineral resources and has a significant cotton industry. But the majority of Uzbeks live in poverty, and the average monthly wage hovers between $20 and $30.