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Uzbek president cements power with election win

TASHKENT (AFP) – Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has won a third term that will keep him in charge of the tightly controlled, gas-rich Central Asian state until 2030, the electoral commission said yesterday.

The 65-year-old has promised to open up Uzbekistan to foreign investment and tourism and implement major reforms in Central Asia’s most populous country.

Mirziyoyev, who was running against three largely unknown candidates, won Sunday’s election with 87 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

A former Soviet republic, Uzbekistan is strategically located between Russia and China and shares a border with Afghanistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated him on a “convincing electoral victory” on social media.

The win “confirms your high political authority and points to the broad, popular support for your policy of large-scale reforms”, he wrote.

The two also spoke on the phone and discussed their “strategic partnership”. Chinese leader Xi Jinping also congratulated Mirziyoyev in a phone call.

Mirziyoyev previously served as prime minister under his hardline predecessor Islam Karimov before winning his first term in 2016 and getting re-elected in 2021.

A constitutional referendum this year paved the way for him to serve two more presidential terms and increased the mandate from five years to seven, meaning he could stay in power until 2037. Mirziyoyev, who trained as an engineer, portrays himself as a reformer creating a “New Uzbekistan” and has said he wants to double gross domestic product to USD160 billion soon.

He focused his re-election campaign on the economy and education. He has ended the practice of forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields and released political prisoners jailed during Karimov’s quarter-century rule.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. PHOTO: AP