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OSCE: 'Serious Irregularities' In Uzbek Vote, But 'Greater Tolerance Of Independent Voices'

People voting at a polling station in Tashkent on December 22.
People voting at a polling station in Tashkent on December 22.

TASHKENT -- The Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (LDPU) came out the winner from Uzbekistan’s parliamentary elections that Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers said were marred by “serious irregularities” amid changes allowing “greater tolerance of independent voices.”

The elections on December 22 were the first since Shavkat Mirziyoev was elected president nearly three years ago. Mirziyoev has promised reforms since coming to power in 2016 after the death of his predecessor, the authoritarian Islam Karimov, who ruled the Central Asian nation for nearly three decades.

The elections were held under the slogan "New Uzbekistan, new elections."

However, all five parties running in the parliamentary poll back Mirziyoev.

Preliminary figures announced on December 23 showed the LDPU winning 43 seats in the 150-seat Oliy Majlis, the lower house of parliament. Behind them were Milli Tiklanish (National Revival) with 35 seats. In third was the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party with 21 seats.

The Central Election Commission put voter turnout at more than 70 percent, much higher than the required minimum of 33 percent to make the vote valid.

The OSCE -- which had monitors to observe voting as well as the election campaign -- noted progress but shortcomings as well.

“The elections took place under clearly improved legislation and greater tolerance of independent voices but did not yet demonstrate genuine and full respect for election-day procedures,” said George Tsereteli, president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

“The contested parties presented their political platforms and the media hosted debates and for the first time many of them were held live. However, the debate rules are still quite restrictive and the range of political options remains limited,” Tsereteli said in Tashkent on December 23.

Tsereteli said OSCE monitors had observed “numerous, serious irregularities” during the casting of ballots, including voting on behalf of others and problems with the vote count.

Observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) -- a loose grouping of some former Soviet republics, including Uzbekistan -- found minor violations at some polling stations, which will not affect the results of the elections, the head of the CIS monitoring mission Sergei Lebedev told journalists in Tashkent on December 23.

The Turkic Council -- comprising Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Turkey, and Uzbekistan -- said its observers had not registered any violations.

With reporting by Glenn Kates

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