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Uzbek critics denounce "one-party" vote

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Uzbek critics denounce "one-party" vote


The Uzbek President Islam Karimov looked relaxed as he cast his vote, but this election has been condemned by his opponents as Soviet-style one-party rule.

Uzbekistan lies on the ancient Silk Road linking Asia and Europe. Karimoc has been in power for 18 years, since the fall of the USSR, and is the only leader most Uzbeks have ever known.

“I believe people know what they are voting for, and they know it well; for tomorrow, for peace in our country, for the prosperity of the people,” declared President Karimov.

Opposition leaders dutifully voted, but Karimov tolerates little dissent, and public criticism of his rule is taboo.

Uzbekistan is a land of great contrasts. Rich in natural gas and gold reserves, many people live in poverty.

Initial polls suggested widespread apathy. Many people failed to vote, saying nothing would change. But his supporters remain faithful.

Uzbekistan was a member of America’s war on terror, but suffered US criticism in 2005 when troops opened fire on anti-Karimov protestors. In the backlash, Washington had to abandon an airbase used to support its operations in Afghanistan.

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