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OSCE Criticizes Uzbek Vote


President Islam Karimov's power is unlikely to be challenged by the parliamentary poll.
President Islam Karimov's power is unlikely to be challenged by the parliamentary poll.

The vote monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Uzbekistan's parliamentary elections lacked real competition.

In a statement on December 22, the head of the limited observation mission sent by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said freedom of expression and association are crucial to conducting free and fair elections.

The December 21 elections "were competently administered but lacked genuine electoral competition and debate," Daan Everts said.

"More comprehensive steps are needed to provide voters with real electoral choices,” Everts said.

Four parties, all of which support President Islam Karimov, competed for 135 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

The remaining 15 seats will automatically go to the progovernment Ecological Movement.

The govenment of Karimov, who has been in power since the Soviet era, is widely criticized for its human rights record and lack of tolerance for dissent.

Uzbekistan’s embattled and largely exiled opposition called for a boycott of the vote.

According to the election commission, there were about 300 international observers, mostly from other organizations, monitoring the vote.The election commission says turnout by the time the polls closed was about 88 percent of more than 20 million registered voters.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov casts his ballot.
Uzbek President Islam Karimov casts his ballot.

The four parties on the ballot were the Liberal Democratic Party, People's Democratic Party, the Democratic Party Milly Tiklanish (National Revival), and the Social Democratic Party Adolat (Justice).

Karimov has transferred some powers to parliament in recent years, including a mechanism for a vote of no confidence in the government.

Uzbekistan has long been criticized for its human rights record and its crackdown on dissent.

Earlier this month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Uzbek authorities to release everyone imprisoned on politically motivated charges under a Constitution Day amnesty.

The group also said authorities should carry out an effective investigation into the September 2014 death in custody of Nilufar Rahimjonova, a 37-year-old woman imprisoned on what it said were politically motivated charges.

"The Uzbek government has imprisoned and tortured some of the world's longest-held political activists, independent journalists, and other peaceful figures," said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at HRW.

Ahead of the polls, a Germany-based news website focusing on Uzbekistan closed down, a month after it accused the Uzbek government of hacking the chief editor's computer and e-mail account and publishing the names of some of its contributors inside Uzbekistan.

The website of carried an announcement on December 20 which said the site has "ceased to exist."

Chief editor Galima Bukharbaeva, who lives in Germany, accused Uzbek security agents of the hacking.

Information taken from her computer subsequently appeared on social media sites and included invoices for payment of contributor fees to about a dozen journalists inside Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is expected to conduct its next presidential election in March 2015.

Karimov, 76, indicated in May that he wants to run again.

Karimov, who has ruled the country during the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, was elected to his current seven-year term in December 2007.

In 2012, the parliament amended the constitution to shorten the presidential term from seven to five years.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Interfax
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