The president of Central Asian republic Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has secured an extension of his current mandate to rule the country for another five years at the presidential elections that were held over the weekend.
The nation's central electoral commission said that after counting all votes, Mirziyoyev had triumphed over four other contenders for the presidential post by a wide margin, collecting more than 80% of votes.
His nearest competitor, Masuda Vorisova of the National Democractic Party of Uzbekistan, won close to 7% of votes.
The elections saw about 81% of the 21 million people registered to vote turning up at the ballot box.
Mirziyoyev’s lead had been widely expected, with state-controlled dominating media providing limited coverage on electoral programmes of presidential contenders and the process itself.
Compared to former Soviet republics in Central Asia, such as Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan’s economy has been growing steadily following liberalisation reforms that Mirziyoyev initiated after he came to power in 2016 following the death of despotic leader Islam Karimov.
Mirziyoyev has also started transforming the country’s oil and gas industry that was heavily monopolised by state oil and gas producer Uzbekneftegaz, with the energy sector seeing the arrival of foreign investors from Russia, Azerbaijan and the US.
Authorities also hope for a wider integration of the Uzbek oil and gas industry into the global market by promising stable terms to international oilfield service contractors and also embarking on a switch towards renewable sources of energy, signing major contracts to build solar farms.
However, independent observers said that, while Uzbekistan has seen major progress in economic reforms, political freedoms still remain under pressure.
An international election observation mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said in its report on the Uzbek elections that wide economic reforms have not yet “resulted in a genuinely pluralistic environment”.
The presidential “campaign was low-key” in all regions of Uzbekistan as well as online, the mission said.
Although there were five candidates, the campaign was not truly competitive as there was no direct meaningful or genuine engagement between them, or with the citizens, which limited the possibility for voters to compare and contrast their options.
"The distinction between the incumbent as president and as candidate was oftentimes blurred and he enjoyed the advantage of the incumbency as a candidate," the mission said.