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Uzbek Party Signals Plan To Nominate Karimov For Third Term

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has been silent about his intentions in December's presidential vote (file photo) (epa) October 4, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- One of Uzbekistan's five registered political parties has decided to nominate long-serving President Islam Karimov for another term as head of state, even though the constitution prohibits him from serving a third term as president.

A member of Uzbekistan's Liberal Democratic Party's (UzLiDeP) central committee confirmed today a plan to nominate Karimov for a third term. Speaking to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service after an UzLiDeP meeting today in Tashkent, a party member who wished to remain anonymous said the decision by the party's leadership must still be confirmed at a party congress in early November.

An UzLiDeP member said Karimov was the only candidate discussed during the meeting. Under current legislation, candidate registration will begin on October 19. Campaigning should start 20 days after that.

Ineligible To Run

The UzLiDeP's decision does not come as a surprise, despite the fact that Karimov is technically ineligible to run for president in the December 23 election. Karimov has not yet commented on the UzLiDeP decision, nor has he made any official statement on the presidential election.

Karimov has been in office since 1989, first as a Communist Party boss of what then was an Uzbek Soviet republic of the USSR. He was elected president in December 1991, shortly after Uzbekistan gained independence. The then-constitution allowed him to serve only two consecutive five-year terms. But a 1995 referendum extended Karimov's term for five years. Two years later, the constitution was amended and presidential terms extended from five to seven years.

"From their pre-election meetings and their speeches in the Oliy Majlis (parliament), one can assume with certainty that they will be mere puppets in the election." -- independent journalist Abdurahmon Tashanov

Observers say pro-Karimov legislators may try to get around the constitutional barrier by saying that Karimov is ending his first seven-year term and can seek a second seven-year term.

Karimov became the fifth presidential hopeful nominated by official political parties. Four other registered parties have announced their candidates for the country's top post.

Uzbekistan's People's Democratic Party (HDP) announced its presidential candidate on October 3. The independent website reports that the head of the party's faction in parliament, Asliddin Rustamov, will vie for the presidency. The HDP has openly supported Karimov's policies.

First Female Candidate

Three other pro-presidential parties have also announced their candidates.

Dilorom Toshmukhamedova, the first secretary of the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party and head of the party's faction in parliament, became the first candidate nominated. She is also the first-ever female candidate for Uzbekistan's presidency. Other candidates are Khurshid Dostmuhammad of the National Renaissance Party and Akhtam Tursunov of Fidokorlar (Self-Sacrificers).

In the last presidential poll in 2000, HDP candidate Abdulhafiz Jalolov was Karimov's only rival. Jalolov later admitted that he had voted for Karimov.

Independent journalist Abdurahmon Tashanov says the three men and one woman are there only to serve as pawns in the authorities' game of democracy.

"It would be ridiculous to expect any brave actions or even oppositionlike statements about incumbent Islam Karimov from Uzbek political party leaders who will run for president," he says. "From their pre-election meetings and their speeches in the Oliy Majlis (parliament), one can assume with certainty that they will be mere puppets in the election."

Several other men have announced their intention to run for president as independent candidates. However, Suhbat Abdullaev, Akbar Aliev, Abdullo Tojiboy Ogli, Akhtam Shoymardonov, and Jahongir Shosalimov have not yet been officially registered with the election commission. The self-announced presidential hopefuls have complained that they cannot get official registration as candidates with the electoral authorities.

The independent website reports that four of the hopefuls held a press conference in Tashkent on October 3. They reportedly complained about the CEC's "disregard" toward them.

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