Karimov was endorsed by a thumping 88 per cent of voters, critics suspect the 
alternative candidates did far better than the official figures show.  By IWPR 
staff in Central Asia


CROSS CAUCASUS JOURNALISM NETWORK. IWPR has launched the website of a unique 
Caucasus-wide programme, funded by the EU and the Finnish government, forming a 
network of more than 50 journalists from across the North and South Caucasus. 
They are meeting and collaborating in all parts of the region over the next 
three years. www.crosscaucasus.net

SAHAR JOURNALISTS’ ASSISTANCE FUND: IWPR is establishing a fund, in honour of 
Sahar al-Haideri, to support journalist participants in its training and 
reporting programmes around the world.  The Sahar Journalists’ Assistance Fund 
will be used to support local journalists in cases of exile or disability, or 
to assist their families in case of death in service. To find out more or 
donate please go to: http://www.iwpr.net/sahar.html 

**** www.iwpr.net 

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA RSS: http://www.iwpr.net/en/rca/rss.xml 

TURKMEN RADIO: INSIDE VIEW is an IWPR radio training and broadcast project for 
Turkmenistan. View at: http://www.iwpr.net/?p=trk&s=p&o=-&apc_state=henh 

RECEIVE FROM IWPR: Readers are urged to subscribe to IWPR's full range of free 
electronic publications at: 

GIVE TO IWPR: IWPR is wholly dependent upon grants and donations. For more 
information about how you can support IWPR go to: 

**** www.iwpr.net 



While the regime claims Islam Karimov was endorsed by a thumping 88 per cent of 
voters, critics suspect the alternative candidates did far better than the 
official figures show.

By IWPR staff in Central Asia

Uzbekistan’s incumbent president, Islam Karimov, has hammered his nominal 
opponents and secured a further stay in power in a vote that critical members 
of the electorate dismiss as pure theatre. 

Late on December 24, the Central Election Commission, CEC, announced 
preliminary results from the previous day’s presidential election, showing that 
Karimov received more than 13 million votes, or 88.1 per cent of the vote. 

Three other contesters, Asliddin Rustamov, head of the parliamentary group of 
the People’s Democratic Party, Diloram Tashmuhammedova, a member of parliament 
for the Adolat party, and Akmal Saidov, director of the National Centre for 
Human Rights, received 3.17, 2.94 and 2.85 per cent of the votes respectively. 

No election in Uzbekistan has yet been recognised as free, fair or otherwise up 
to international standards by western observers since the country emerged from 
the Soviet Union in 1991, and this vote was no exception. 

>From the start of the campaign, all three rivals of the hard-line president 
>routinely started their speeches by singing his praises.

The limited election observation mission sent earlier this month by the 
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said the 
presidential election fell short of democratic standards. 

In a December 24 statement, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and 
Human Rights, ODIHR, concluded that the poll took place in a “strictly 
controlled political environment, leaving no room for real opposition, and the 
election generally failed to meet many OSCE commitments for democratic 

Ambassador Walter Siegl, who led the team of about 20 observers, noted that 
more candidates took part than on previous occasions, and that they included 
one woman. Despite this, he said, “since all candidates in the present election 
publicly endorsed the incumbent, the electorate was deprived of a genuine 

The OSCE/ODIHR team’s findings cite numerous violations of election legislation 
ranging from proxy voting to the alteration of figures during the count and 

To test the poll’s probity, one independent journalist in Tashkent succeeded in 
voting at two polling stations by registering as a resident in different 
electoral constituencies. 

“I came to two [polling] stations, found my name on the roll at both, obtained 
ballots and happily voted twice,” he said. “People say there were others who 
managed to vote even more. It depends on how much real estate you have.” 

While some voters had a chance to cast multiple ballots, others found their 
votes were stolen. 

“A friend who works in a mahalla [neighbourhood] committee told me she had 
voted on behalf of me and all my family,” said one Tashkent resident, adding 
that this was done so as “not to bother the constituency workers and make them 
go round people’s apartments and persuade them to vote at the end of a busy 

Despite similar findings by local human rights watchdogs, the CEC turned a 
blind eye to this and other reported violations, and declared that the vote had 
been held “in strict accordance with national election legislation”. 

At a briefing the day after the polls, the election body said it had received 
no complaints from the 23,000 local observers, most of whom were drawn from 
state agencies. 

While the authorities denied accreditation to foreign media, fearing they would 
air the election’s shortcomings, the state-controlled media were mobilised to 
endorse Karimov’s victory. The state news site UzA quoted a number of 
“friendly” foreign monitors as saying the vote was “free, open and transparent”.

The Uzbek media frequently aired the assessment made by Sergey Lebedev, head of 
the Russian-led election monitoring mission from the Commonwealth of 
Independent States. Lebedev said his mission noticed few minor shortcomings, 
but added that these were “of a technical nature”. 

The CEC claimed a turnout of just over 14.7 million voters, or 91 per cent of 
the electorate. This very high figure raised further doubts about the accuracy 
of the results. 

Surat Ikramov, Tashkent-based leader of the Initiative Group of Independent 
Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan, said the CEC had been “rash” in asserting 
that almost 15 million voters visited the polls. 

“The CEC does not take into account that more than 5.5 million of our nationals 
are in other countries, where they’ve gone to earn money because of the lack of 
work [here],” said Ikramov. 

According to Ikramov, about one-third of the country’s eligible voters were 
currently migrant workers abroad, especially in Russia and Kazakstan, and as 
most had gone there illegally, they could not possibly have obtained ballots to 

“It’s an obvious fabrication,” said Ikramov. 

Ikramov also reported that in an unofficial straw poll, 34 per cent of 
respondents said they voted for Saidov, 21 per cent for Tashmuhammedova, 16 for 
Karimov and two for Rustamov, while 27 had declined to state their preference. 

Interviews appeared to back this claim up. Saidov, who heads a government human 
rights body not known for rocking the boat, also appeared to have won more 
support than the official results indicated. 

“I voted for Akmal Saidov in order for Islam Karimov not to win,” said an 
employee of a Tashkent banks. “I know nothing about the other candidates, but I 
think they have already discredited themselves by their loyalty to the power 

Another Tashkent citizen, Feruza, a student, said she had voted for Saidov 
because at least he did not belong to a political party. “All party members are 
bootlickers,” she said. 

Like many inhabitants of the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan, where the security 
forces killed hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in May 2005, Saida 
Abdurasulova said she voted for Saidov on account of his human rights 

“When I arrived to the polling station, one of the women who instructed me how 
to fill out the ballot asked whether I knew who I should vote for, and told me, 
“Vote for Karimov!”. I told her I did know who I’d be voting for,” said 
Abdurasulova. “I voted for Saidov because I heard that he has human rights 
experience, even though I know this ‘nationwide show’ was organised only to 
re-elect one person. This was the only way for me to express my dissatisfaction 
with how poorly the current government respects its people’s human rights.” 

During his 16 years of authoritarian rule, Karimov has silenced all his 
critics, jailing forcing opposition members, human rights activists and 
journalists or forcing them into exile and exerting strict control over the 

Karimov, who has run the resource-rich and strategically important country 
since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, has served two terms in office 
already. Although the constitution limits presidential terms to two, the CEC 
approved Karimov’s candidacy last month. Tashkent has offered no public 
explanation as to why the constitutional rule was ignored. 

One Tashkent resident who gave his first name as Ibrahim said he voted for 
Karimov in the belief that any new ruler would merely start by enriching 
himself and his family. 

“If there was a new president, you would just have a redistribution of property 
and struggles between family clans,” he said. “For ordinary people, that would 
mean more trouble and deprivation. Let Karimov remain. We’ve got used to him.” 

Other citizens agreed that Karimov would remain in power regardless of people’s 

Khurshid, a shop owner in Tashkent, said he and his wife voted for Saidov 
“because all our friends are going to vote for him”.

“No one thinks the authorities will allow anyone else other than Karimov to 
win. But, anyway, our big company of supporters has voted for Saidov just to 
see whether our choices are reflected in the official results.”

Nadezhda Atayeva, president of the French-based Human Rights in Central Asia 
association, predicted that even Karimov’s most loyal opponents could now face 
trouble for receiving too many votes.

“Now he [Karimov] has to decide how each of the alternative candidates 
behaved,” Atayeva told IWPR. “Note that the most popular of the alternative 
candidates, Akmal Saidov, was officially rated last, whereas in fact he 
received the majority of votes. Saidov may well now be written off in the 
political arena as a disloyal individual.”

(The names of some interviewees have been withheld out of concern for their 

**** www.iwpr.net 

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique 
insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists, 
the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly 

The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek, 
Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better 
local and international understanding of the region.

IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The 
service is published online in English and Russian. 

The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and 
do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.

REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA: Editor-in-Chief: Anthony Borden; Managing Editor: Yigal 
Chazan; Senior Editor: John MacLeod; Central Asia Editor: Saule 
Mukhametrakhimova; Project Director: Kumar Bekbolotov.

IWPR Project Development and Support: Executive Director: Anthony Borden; 
Strategy & Assessment Director: Alan Davis; Chief Programme Officer: Mike Day.

**** www.iwpr.net 

IWPR builds democracy at the frontlines of conflict and change through the 
power of professional journalism. IWPR programs provide intensive hands-on 
training, extensive reporting and publishing, and ambitious initiatives to 
build the capacity of local media. Supporting peace-building, development and 
the rule of law, IWPR gives responsible local media a voice.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting
48 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8LT, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7831 1030  Fax: +44 (0)20 7831 1050

For further details on this project and other information services and media 
programmes, go to: www.iwpr.net 

ISSN: 1477-7924 Copyright © 2007 The Institute for War & Peace Reporting 

**** www.iwpr.net 

If you wish to change your subscription details or unsubscribe please go to:  

Reply via email to