Today, Sunday, voters in Uzbekistan began casting their votes in the early presidential elections, and 4 candidates are running, most notably the current president, Shavkat Mirzayev, the favorite to win in those elections, which are the first since the constitution was amended to extend the president’s term to 7 years.
Polling stations opened their doors at eight in the morning (03:00 GMT) and are scheduled to close at eight in the evening today, when about 20 million Uzbeks are entitled to vote in the largest country in Central Asia in terms of population.
Three candidates from the Environmental Party, the People’s Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party (Adalah) are running against Mirzayev, but there are no strong opposition parties or prominent politicians, and there have never been elections that international observers consider competitive.
The early elections come after the referendum on amending the constitution last April, when Mirzayev removed, according to the amendment, the limit of presidential terms in the constitution, which was limited to two terms, and recalculated his terms from the beginning and extended the next presidential terms to 7 years instead of 5 years. Instead of stepping down – which was scheduled before the constitutional amendment in 2026 – Mirzayev will remain in office until 2037.
Mirzayev served as prime minister under his predecessor, Islam Karimov, who ruled the country since Soviet times and kept it isolated from most countries in the world. After Karimov’s death, he won his first term in 2016 and was re-elected in 2021. Mirzayev, 65, brought Uzbekistan out of almost complete isolation since he came to power.
Like other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is trying to limit collateral damage from Western sanctions on Russia, its traditional trading partner, over the war in Ukraine.
The decline in the Russian ruble means that Tashkent expects a decrease in the inflow of foreign currency from the millions of its citizens who work in Russia. Politically, however, Uzbekistan adheres to neutrality, calls for peace in Ukraine, and has pledged to abide by Western sanctions while maintaining normal relations with Moscow.