Pro-Karimov parties join forces ahead of presidential vote
Two of Uzbekistan’s leading political parties have formed a new coalition, the Bloc of Democratic Forces, that gives them a majority in the 150-seat parliament.
Representatives of the Liberal Democratic and National Revival parties announced the formation of the new group on Saturday, UzDaily reports.
The move gives the parties a combined 88 seats in the lower house of the Oliy Majlis, Uzbekistan’s parliament.
The parliament has little influence under the authoritarian rule of Islam Karimov, the last Soviet leader of the Central Asian republic and only elected president since independence in 1991.
The next presidential vote is scheduled on 29 March. Karimov will represent the Liberal Democrats in an election unlikely to see a serious challenge to his rule, Radio Free Europe reported in January.
Parliamentary elections held on 21 December were criticized as falling short of democratic norms.
The two parties in the new bloc, along with the People’s Democratic Party and the Justice Party, all back Karimov’s regime and were the only parties allowed to field parliamentary candidates. By law, the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan holds 15 seats.
A report (pdf) issued last month by election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe describes the parliamentary campaign as “tepid and characterized by the lack of substantive and genuine debates among candidates, although campaign activities slightly increased closer to election day.”
“The four political parties that took part in the elections were created to each represent one of the four main segments of Uzbek society. As such, they were complementary rather than competitive,” the report says.