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Voting in Uzbek presidential election begins.

Image Credit: Vyacheslav Oseledko/ AFP

Voting for a new presidential 5 -year term will begin on Sunday. Many expect the current President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to win against his four rivals. The current President took office in December 2016 after the death of the 1st post-independence President of Ubzekistan Islam Karimov who ruled the country for 27 years. The President Shavkat Mirziyoyev won the 2016 election with 88.61% of the votes against his three rivals.

Mirziyoyev improved relations with world players such as Russia, China and the West, while also resolving conflicts with neighbors including establishing peaceful interaction with Afghanistan.

Andrey Kazantsev of the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations.

The country shares a 144 km border with Afghanistan and the country was worried that the conflict between Taliban and Afghan government would spill over. In light of this, they carried out several military drills with Russia top strengthen the border. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev expanded the freedom of speech as compared with the Karimov era, lifted controls on hard currency, tight controls on Islam to counter dissident views. According to Human Rights Watch a would-be independent challenger academic Khidirnazar Allakulov that fell off from the race after failing to register a party that can nominate him, his party supporters were constantly harassed by officials, which also interfered to collect signatures for his registration. The President is being criticized for falling back to the habits of his long-reigning predecessor.

Today, over 21.26 million registered voters will be expected to cast their votes at 10,760 polling places which all opened at 8am local time (03:00 GMT) and will last till 8pm local time (15:00 GMT). According to Uzbek law, if the turnout does not exceed 33% the election would be rendered invalid, and for any candidate to win the election, he must get more than half of the votes. If there will be no clear winner, the top two candidates will head for a second round of voting.

The election will be closely followed by around 1,000 international observers, and also by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and  Commonwealth of Independent States.

For people in the Uzbekistan, when some were interviewed in the city of Tashkent, a city of 2.5 million people, poverty rather than human rights abuses is the problem in the country.

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