Uzbekistan votes in parliamentary elections

Uzbekistan voted on Sunday in a state-managed parliamentary election shrugged off as meaningless by voters in a nation courted by West and US for Afghanistan invasion.

Uzbekistan votes in parliamentary elections

Uzbekistan voted on Sunday in a state-managed parliamentary election shrugged off as meaningless by voters in a nation courted by West and US for Afghanistan invasion.

Once critical of Uzbekistan's human rights abuses and intolerance of dissent, the West has kept quiet ahead of the vote as it seeks to engage it more in U.S. invasion in Afghanistan.

Ex-Soviet Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous nation, has never held a vote judged free and fair by observers.

Sunday's vote is certain to hand allies of President Islam Karimov, in power for two decades, all seats in the lower house of parliament. The country has no opposition parties and most pro-democracy activists are either in jail or in exile abroad.

"There is no point," said one man in the capital Tashkent ahead of voting which opened at 8 p.m. EST. "It is meaningless."

Another young man said: "People here seriously do not care. ... It's not an election."

Fearful of state reprisals, residents of Tashkent, an ancient Silk Road city rebuilt in Soviet times, have been reluctant to speak openly.

Despite widespread apathy, the official turnout was likely to be high in a country where, in an echo to its Soviet past, voting is often compulsory in neighborhoods and companies.

The United States effectively cut off ties with Tashkent in 2005 after condemning it for opening fire on protesters in the city of Andizhan, killing hundreds, according to witnesses.

This year however relations warmed after Uzbekistan agreed to allow military supplies to pass through its territory en route to Afghanistan invasion, with which it shares a long border. The European Union also lifted sanctions on Uzbekistan in October.

In Sunday's vote, candidates from four parties are contesting 150 seats in the lower house. The Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan, focused solely on environmental issues, automatically gets 15 seats in the chamber.

The election monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not send a full mission, saying none of its earlier recommendations had been implemented.

The state has defended the election as democratic.

"The election is taking part in an increasingly active and healthy environment of social and political competition among parties," Mirza-Ulugbek Abdusalomov, Central Election Commission chief, told reporters on the eve of the vote.


Reuters

Last Mod: 27 Aralık 2009, 15:00
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