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Many Uzbeks Apathetic About Parliamentary Election

  • Michael Kitchen

The Central Asian state of Uzbekistan is trumpeting its parliamentary elections as another successful democratic exercise. The lack on any viable opposition to the current government has left many Uzbeks unenthusiastic about the vote.

Uzbekistan's Sunday election pitted more than 500 candidates for 120 seats in the country's lower chamber of parliament.

But virtually all of those running are supporters of powerful President Islam Karimov. The country's opposition parties were barred from running.

The government says the opposition failed to comply with registration procedures. Opposition leaders say they were shut out for criticizing the president's policies.

Some Uzbeks, such as 40-year-old taxi driver Zoyir Israilov, say the election is pointless.

He says no one he knows has bothered to vote, as they believe the outcome will not change anything or help the ailing economy.

He says freedom for Uzbeks is almost as limited as it was before 1991, when Uzbekistan was part of the Soviet Union. But at least then, he says, citizens had job and wage security.

Uzbekistan has an average income of $1,700 per year, and according to U.S. estimates, 20 percent of the workforce is jobless or underemployed.

But Mr. Israilov also says that the opposition groups barred from the election would probably not improve things either, and would become corrupt as soon as they secured power.

A 24-year-old bazaar merchant who asked to be identified only as Shavkat says the candidates running for office did not make a serious attempt to publicize their platforms.

He says he does not care about the election and does not even know who is running in his district.

The turnout required to validate the results was recently lowered from 50 percent to 33 percent.

The national election commission announced early Sunday afternoon that this threshold had already been exceeded.

International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have deployed monitors around the country and are expected to issue a report on Monday.

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