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Uzbek President Slams OSCE For Criticizing Vote --> Islam Karimov (file photo) 26 December 2004 -- Uzbek President Islam Karimov has lashed out at Europe's top election watchdog for criticizing today's parliamentary vote.

Karimov said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) cannot have the exclusive right to assess elections.

The president also defended the inactive campaigns of the candidates, saying Uzbeks are not used to displaying their opinions "too emotionally" on the streets.

The OSCE has sent a limited mission of around 20 observers to monitor the poll, which it has already criticized for lacking fairness.

According to the Central Electoral Commission, voter turnout had exceeded 46 percent of the 14 million eligible voters by midday. Our correspondent in Tashkent reports that turnout appears very low, however.

Five parties are fielding more than 500 candidates for 120 lower-house seats in the Oliy Majlis. All five parties support Karimov's policies.

The country's three main opposition parties have been banned from taking part. They have called for voters to boycott the election.

(RFE/RL's Uzbek Service/AP/dpa)

[For more RFE/RL coverage and analysis of the parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan, click here.]