AP NEWS

Uzbekistan elects new parliament with no opposition

December 23, 2019 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) — Election officials in the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan on Monday announced the preliminary results of a parliamentary vote that offered no real opposition, with pro-government political parties taking 128 seats out of 150 and certain eventually to win the rest.

The remaining 22 seats are up for a second round of voting, as candidates in these constituencies failed to win the necessary number of votes in Sunday’s election. The second round is scheduled for Jan. 5.

The vote is the first parliamentary election since the death of longtime strongman leader Ismail Karimov three years ago. The five parties on the ballot on Sunday all were Karimov loyalists and they also support the agenda of his successor.

Since becoming president in 2016, Shavkat Mirziyoyev has implemented reforms including relaxing the censorship of critical news websites and releasing some political prisoners. But human rights groups say thousands of people in Uzbekistan remain imprisoned on false charges, and cite problems with forced labor.

“The widescale reforms being pursued by the authorities in Uzbekistan have had a real and direct impact on these elections, but democratic development requires increased competition and respect for basic rights and freedoms,” George Tsereteli, coordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observer mission in Uzbekistan, said in a statement Monday.

On Sunday, the head of the country’s elections commission, Mirzo-Ulugbek Abdusalomov, encouraged new political forces to form and register political parties.

“We believe that opposition parties should be created in our country, because it’s hard to encourage pluralism in society without opposition,” he said.