The people of Uzbekistan have been voting in parliamentary elections described by their president as ‘a test of democracy’. But, with all four competing parties supportive of the government of President Islam Karimov, many see this as a stage-managed exercise.
There are no opposition parties in the ex-Soviet republic, ruled by Karimov for 20 years. It has never held a vote judged free and fair by western observers.
Yet the West, once criticial of the Uzbek leadership’s intolerance of dissent, now remains largely silent. That is because the Central Asian nation is being courted as an ally in Western efforts to contain the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan might consider reopening a key US military base on its soil as the next stage of warming relations. It has already agreed to allow supplies to pass through its territory en route to Afghanistan with which it shares a long border.