Again, the President of Uzbek, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has picked up the baton of the nation’s leadership following his re-election for a second five-year term.
The nation’s electoral body said Mirziyoyev took 80.1 percent of the vote against four token opponents.
Local reports have it that Mirziyoyev’s widely expected victory will allow him to deepen his reform campaign and likely lead to Uzbekistan opening up further to foreign trade and investment – while retaining a highly centralised political system.
Prior to the election, Mirziyoyev lifted some restrictions on religious practices, reined in the powerful security services and overseen the release of some political prisoners.
Also, he has rebuilt the resource-rich country’s ties with both Russia and the West and pledges to cut poverty through rapid economic growth and gradually decentralise decision-making by devolving some powers to district councils.
Remarkably, despite the absence of significant competition, voter turnout was strong at 80.8%.
It is important to note that Mirziyoyev, who took office in 2016 following the death of longtime President Islam Karimov, has relaxed many of the policies of his predecessor but maintained rigid controls over the political scene.
Among other developments, under Mirziyoyev, freedom of speech has expanded compared with the Karimov era, and some independent news media and bloggers have appeared.
The president lifted controls on hard currency, helping encourage foreign investment. Mirziyoyev has moved to boost economic and trade ties with Russia, which is building Uzbekistan’s first nuclear power plant and has invested in other big economic projects in the country. Russia also attracts a flow of migrant workers from Uzbekistan.
However, Political scientist Akhmed Rahmonov observed that while under Karimov food and energy were subsidized by the state, “today, with the free market reforms, the subsidies have been removed, but no mechanism has been created to support redistribution of wealth.”
“People are dissatisfied because inequality and prices are rising and there is no mechanism to protect the most vulnerable people,” Rahmonov said. “Education, healthcare and other state services are now being privatized, and prices of public services are on the rise. At the same time, salaries grow much slower.”