Uzbekistan Holds Polls With Reform-touting Strongman A Shoo-in
Umer Jamshaid 1 month ago Sun 24th October 2021 | 08:50 AM
Tashkent, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 24th Oct, 2021 ) :Voting was underway in Central Asian Uzbekistan's presidential election Sunday, with incumbent Shavkat Mirziyoyev facing no real opposition but plenty of challenges as he bids to reform the ex-Soviet country and still maintain its authoritarian foundations.
But as his first term ends, the 64-year-old is struggling to counter impressions that his government is sliding back towards the habits of his long-reigning predecessor.
The effects of the pandemic have also blunted his initial economic achievements, with unemployment rife amid sharp rises in living costs.
"We expect changes. For instance, salary increases -- our salaries are small and we don't always get them," said 20-year-old student Urazali Ergashev. He added that his mother, a teacher, often faced salary delays.
Voting across the landlocked country of 34 million people began at 8:00 am local time (0300 GMT) and will last until 8:00 pm (1500 GMT).
It is against the founding president's brutal rule that the successes of Mirziyoyev's reforms have been judged.
Mirziyoyev has also sidestepped reforms that would allow competition to his rule.
A would-be independent challenger, academic Khidirnazar Allakulov, fell at the first hurdle after failing to register a party that could nominate him.
Human Rights Watch said this month that officials "harassed (Allakulov's) party supporters and interfered in their efforts to collect signatures for registration".
Still, most Uzbeks interviewed by AFP in Tashkent said they were unconcerned by the lack of real choice on the ballot.
"When things are going well, why do we need so many choices?" asked pensioner Yakub Otazhanov.
"Let Mirziyoyev (get on with it)." Under his rule, Uzbekistan has strengthened traditional relations with Beijing and Moscow, while welcoming back international organisations and media outlets effectively banned under Karimov.
But for many in the capital Tashkent, poverty rather than rights is the issue of the day.
"I hope he will help solve these problems."His colleague, who did not want to be named, implied that the president's reforms were cosmetic.
"New buildings do not mean new Uzbekistan," he said.