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OSCE observers say Uzbek elections undemocratic

24-12-2007

DW-WORLD.DE:

Uzbekistan's presidential poll, which has installed veteran leader Islam Karimov in office for a third term, failed to meet democratic standards, Europe's chief election monitoring body said.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Monday, Dec 24, polls in the Central Asian country had taken place in a tightly controlled political environment that didn't allow any space for a real opposition.

"The election generally failed to meet many OSCE commitments for democratic elections," the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement.

Karimov won 88.1 percent of the Sunday vote, the Uzbek election commission said, compared with 91 percent in 2000.

The OSCE's monitoring mission's chief, Walter Siegl, underlined that because the three nominal challengers to Karimov in Sunday's polls "publicly endorsed the incumbent, the electorate was deprived of a genuine choice."

The OSCE fielded a team of just 26 observers to the ex-Soviet republic of 28 million people, saying that the lack of competitive conditions for the vote made a bigger team pointless.

"The hardly visible election campaign was characterized by the absence of any real competition of ideas and political views," the OSCE statement said. "Coverage of the campaign in the media was very limited, without debates among candidates, direct speeches or the presentation of alternative views, which could help the electorate make an informed choice."

The statement also questioned the "unusually high" turnout of 90.6 percent.

Karimov said he was confident of being declared the winner following voting on Sunday. The people know that they are voting for peace and prosperity, the 69-year-old said in the capital Tashkent.

The Uzbek Election Commission in November allowed Karimov to stand for reelection for a third time though the constitution foresees no more than two terms for the president.

Karimov has ruled the country, rich in natural gas and other resources, for the last 18 years. During that time, Karimov has suppressed independent political and religious activity, human rights groups say. According to observers, Karimov leads one of the most repressive governments in Central Asia.

Opposition groups and human rights organizations described the vote as a farce because there was no real alternative to Karimov.

Meanwhile, a Russian senior elections official indicated on Monday that Russia would invite fewer foreign observers to the presidential election in March than it did four years ago.

Stanislav Vavilov, deputy head of the Central Election Commission, said that the "preliminary plan" was to invite observers "in the same number and time period" as for the parliamentary poll which was held on Dec.

For those elections only 70 Western observers monitored the election spread across 11 time zones, down from 400 observers which were present during the last parliamentary elections in 2003 and the presidential poll in 2004.



DW staff (sp)

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3020539,00.html

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