Uzbekistan declares polls set to re-elect strongman Karimov valid

In this file photo taken on Saturday, March 21, 2015, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov greets people during the festivities marking the Navruz holiday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. AP Photo, file

Uzbekistan on March 29 declared its presidential ballot valid after more than the required third of voters turned out in an election that 77-year-old strongman incumbent President Islam Karimov is almost certain to win.
The central electoral commission of the ex-Soviet Central Asian country said 36.55 percent of the 20 million registered voters had cast their votes in the first four hours, passing the threshold of a third stipulated by Uzbek law for an election to be valid.
Voting at more than 9,000 polling stations across the country began at 6.00 am local time (0100 GMT) and was set to continue until 8.00 pm (1500 GMT).
Karimov, who has ruled the country since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, is standing against three candidates put forward by parties in the Uzbek parliament that openly support his presidency.
One of the candidates, Akmal Saidov, representing the Democratic National Renaissance Party, faced off with Karimov in the last presidential poll in 2007, but won less than three percent of the vote while Karimov took close to 90 percent. 
Hotamjon Ketmonov, the chairman of the People's Democratic Party, and Nariman Umarov, who leads the Social Democratic Party of Uzbekistan Adolat (Justice), are the other two candidates on the ballot.
While exit polls are prohibited under Uzbek law, many voters in the capital Tashkent told AFP they had voted for the incumbent.
Burkhon, a 63-year municipal transport mechanic who declined to give his surname, cited periodic unrest in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, as well as the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, as reasons for casting his vote for Karimov.
"We haven't had such bad things, thanks to Karimov, and we don't...

Continue reading on: