Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev speaks during a South Korea-Uzbekistan business forum, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017, in Seoul. EFE/Jeon Heon-Kyun/FILE

Uzbeks vote in presidential elections with incumbent as favorite

Moscow, Jul 9 (EFE).- More than 19.5 million Uzbek voters are called to the polls Sunday in early presidential elections in which current President Shavkat Mirziyoyev as the clear favorite over the lack of opposition parties.

The 10,784 polling stations opened their doors at 03:00 GMT and will close at 15:00 GMT.

Elections are considered valid if at least 33 percent of registered voters participate.

Mirziyoyev, 65, and in power since 2006, was re-elected in 2021 with 80.1 percent of the vote and called early presidential elections in May after the constitutional reform on Apr. 30.

The reform, approved by 90.2 percent of voters, modified two thirds of the Constitution and, among other things, extended the presidential mandate from five to seven years, though with a limit of two terms.

This last change did not affect the head of state in office at the time the new fundamental law was adopted, so Mirziyoyev, whose term expired in 2026, could run again and remain in power until 2037.

Despite the new constitution improving some safeguards to guarantee greater respect for certain rights, there are still many concerns inside and outside the country about freedom of assembly, association and expression, as well as the lack of independence of the judiciary.

He was praised in his first years in office for the economic opening and timid liberal reforms, such as the fight against child exploitation in the Uzbek cotton harvest, appreciated throughout the world, but there is still no opposition in the country.

None of the five registered parties in the country openly opposes the president’s policies and agenda.

Mirziyoyev has the support of two parties in these elections: the Liberal Democratic Party that nominated him, as well as the Milliy Tiklanish force.

The People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan nominated its leader and lower house first vice-president Ulugbek Inoyatov as candidate; and the Social Democratic Party Adolat elected Robajon Majmudova, the only female presidential candidate and first supreme court vice president.

Finally, the Ecological Party opted for the candidacy of Abdushukur Jamzaev, president of the party.

A total of 815,000 citizens have already cast their ballots in advance between June 28 and Wednesday, according to the Central Election Commission. EFE