Islam Karimov agreed to remain the president another seven years
The Liberal-Democratic Party of Uzbekistan ran its convention in Tashkent on November 6. Delegates unanimously voted to nominate Islam Karimov for election the president on December 23. His term of office completed on January 22, Karimov did not object and agreed to run for another seven-year term.
According to what information is available at this point, Karimov made a speech in the Uzbek language at the convention in which he recounted his ambitious designs for the next presidency. Party press service promises to have materials of the convention published in a special issue of XXI Century (newspaper of the Liberal-Democratic Party published in Uzbek) tomorrow.
The Uzbek Constitution in the meantime does not permit a person to remain president for more than two terms in a row. Since the tame Liberal-Democratic Party was instructed to nominated Karimov, observers wanted to know exactly how it would present and explain it without actually throwing the Constitution out the nearest window.
Trust Liberal-Democrats to come up with something. No information is available at this point on any explanations, coherent or otherwise. The Constitution may be suitably amended at a later date. Actually, even that may prove unnecessary as long as the "correct" interpretation of the document is offered. "The Constitution states that one and the same person is not supposed to be the president more than two times in a row," delegate to the convention told Ferghana.Ru off the record. "Karimov's first seven-year term over, he is free to run for another seven-year term of office now." In other words, the fact that he ruled the country before that (elected for five years in 1992, Karimov arranged a referendum in 1997 to extend his presidency until 2000) does not count - at least by this logic.
Other political parties are already responding. The Uzbek Human Rights Alliance released a statement accusing the Liberal-Democratic Party of an open violation of Article 90 of the Constitution (the one imposing the two-term restriction) and demanding action against it.
"Citizen of Uzbekistan Islam Abduganiyevich Karimov has already been President of the Republic of Uzbekistan twice and sworn to serve the people of the Republic of Uzbekistan, abide by its Constitution and legislation, guarantee rights and freedoms, and perform the duties of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan faithfully," the document stated.
The decision of the Liberal-Democratic Party may appear sensational while it is anything but. Signatures in support of Karimov's third term of office have been collected in Uzbekistan for over a month already. Directors of major enterprises and organizations and the heads of local mahallja committees are in charge of the campaign. What counts is that they wield sufficient powers to apply pressure to whoever refuses to sign the petition.
What information Ferghana.Ru has compiled indicates that the Tashkent narcological dispensary denies health certificates to whoever applies for it (without it, registries refuse to register marriages) without the applicant's signature on the petition for Karimov's third term of office. Collectors even walk door-to-door, even though this method is recognized as more difficult. The law "On election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan" demands signatures of at least 5% of all voters.
In other words, the convention proves what nobody has actually entertained any doubts about, namely that the man who has been ruling Uzbekistan since 1989 is fully determined to remain in charge. Karimov (he will turn 70 next January) will become the president for the third time soon and probably remain the president until his very demise. It stands to reason to expect another election of Karimov in Uzbekistan seven years from now, barring his death.