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Uzbekistan’s presidential elections have always been a charade. President Islam Karimov has ruled the country since 1989, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. It therefore wasn’t surprising that media around the world treated the outcome of the March 29 presidential election as a foregone conclusion far ahead of voting.
In a sign of his unapologetic autocracy, Karimov did not even bother to invent a pretext explaining how he could run for a fourth term in office when the country’s constitution limits the president to two. Even by regional standards, Uzbekistan is a rare case study in authoritarianism: Karimov’s 25-year tenure is a record in the region, and the president has treated Uzbekistan as a feudal kingdom working for his personal enrichment.
Although Karimov’s reelection was assured, the survival of the system he has created is not guaranteed. Uzbekistan’s future is increasingly uncertain: the