During the 25 years Islam Karimov was president of independent Uzbekistan, there was little reason for excitement about the country’s polls. All the candidates always supported the president’s policies. Karimov himself once said he had difficulty distinguishing the registered political parties from one another.
The December 22 parliamentary elections are the first parliamentary elections with Shavkat Mirziyoev as Uzbekistan’s president. Mirziyoev has been promising reforms and that has generated a lot of fresh interest, particularly from Western nations that had largely given up hope on change in Uzbekistan when Karimov was leader.
RFE/RL’s Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on what has changed and what has stayed the same during this election campaign.
We were fortunate that both our guests are veteran Uzbek-watchers who were in Uzbekistan observing the campaign. From the Uzbek Service of RFE/RL’s sister organization Voice of America, the host of the Amerika Ovozi program Navbahor Imamova joined the talk. Friend of the Majlis Steve Swerdlow, a human rights lawyer and Central Asia expert now working with UN agencies, took part in the discussion. And these are the fifth Uzbek parliamentary elections that I’ve covered, so I had a thing or two to say as well.