Uzbekistan votes in likely one-horse race

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Uzbekistan votes in likely one-horse race

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The people of Uzbekistan are today voting in a presidential election in which there is only one likely winner — Islam Karimov — who has led the Central Asian state for 18 years.

On the surface voters can choose between four official candidates, but any real opposition parties have been banned.

The former Soviet state is rich in cotton, gas and oil. It has struck allegiances with the US, Russia, the EU and China in recent years but fallen out with all of them.

A brutal crackdown on protestors in the town of Andijan in 2005 triggered widespread condemnation and even sanctions from the West.

But Karimov can still count on the Uzbek people.

One man says he and his new wife will be voting for Karimov “because we like his politics and we trust him.”

Rustam, a baker in the capital, Tashkent, says he knows which side of his bread is buttered: “Everything we have, we have thanks to him: food, work, our house, comfort. All thanks to him.”

Human rights groups claim there are more than 5,000 political prisoners in Uzbek’s jails.

A government spokesman promised “transparency and openness” in this election, but international monitors have already contradicted this.