ANALYSIS - Uzbek voters prefer continuity, give 2nd term to Mirziyoyev
It was Uzbekistan's 7th presidential election since country gained independence from former Soviet Union in 1991
The writer is a UK-based analyst and has worked with universities in three Central Asian countries.
Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has won a second term by securing 80.1% of the 16.2 million total votes polled in Sunday’s presidential election, the country’s election commission announced Monday afternoon in the capital Tashkent. His reelection has followed the practice in most of the Central Asian republics, where incumbent leaders have won the second term.
Right from the beginning, Mirziyoyev had started his campaign as the favorite and was expected to win the support and approval of the voters. Observers said the people had perceived him as a better leader to introduce painless reforms in the country.
In the earlier five presidential elections held in 1990,1991, 2000,2007, and 2015 Islam Karimov remained the most dominant candidate and emerged victoriously. Following the death of Karimov in 2016, who ruled the country for 27-years Mirziyovye stepped in.
Since the death of Karimov, Uzbekistan has undergone many changes, which included opening up the economy, scaling down the dominance of the security apparatus in running the government, establishing and improving neighborly relations. All these measures appeared part of Mirziyoyev's attempts to carve out his own domestic and foreign policy, fundamentally different from the Karimov era.
According to Sherzod Qudrat Khojaev, there are indications of moving from the conservative orientation to comparatively liberal measures. “We witnessed an active discussion on social media networks and independently evaluated the candidates participating in the elections. This is our first step towards openness in society,” he said.
During his term from 2016-2021, Mirziyoyev oversaw the completion of the Kandym Gas Processing Plant built by Russia’s Lukoil. It will increase gas production in Uzbekistan to 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually. Of which 8 bcm will be generated at Kandym, 5 bcm at Hissar, and 3 bcm at Khauzak.
In the post-election scenario, Mirziyoyev’s success will now be measured by the extent of economic recovery after the pandemic-induced slowdown. Few specific industries have picked up the pace over the past few months.
In Uzbekistan, huge deposits of copper ore had been identified in the past decades. They are expected to last over 150-years. The country has deposits of molybdenum, silver, and gold as well. Experts believe that the growing demand for copper all over the world due to a spurt in the production of electric cars will benefit the Uzbek economy.
Mirziyoyev’s hands, however, will remain full to tackle challenges of poverty, low wages, brain drain of workers, and ending corruption.
Mirziyoyev proved successful in reassuring relations with immediate neighbors and regional allies. Many observers are curious to see how Uzbekistan will interact with its southern neighbor Afghanistan, following its takeover by the Taliban.
Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov has talked about encouraging the new rulers in Afghanistan to evolve measures for smooth integration in projects for regional development.
Kamilov points out that the Afghan authorities have promised to take the requisite measures. He, however, admitted that in a country exposed to war for over 40-years, it will remain a challenge.
On the streets of Uzbekistan, people were less enthusiastic about politics. They just wanted to see economic development and greater employment opportunities. It looks the people have appreciated the policies pursued by the incumbent president in his first term, especially his efforts to reconcile with the neighbors.
That has boosted the impression of his government pursuing a foreign policy to help open up more possibilities for common people to travel to other post-Soviet states for work or to conduct business. At home, people expect that Mirziyoyev’s economic measures to help create a more favorable investment environment.
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