TASHKENT – The people of Uzbekistan cast their votes Sunday to elect a new president who would lead the country of more than 30 million people towards a more prosperous country, a stronger civil society and further deepening of democratic reforms.
This is the second important event for the Uzbeks within a span of three months. The first was the Parliamentary Elections held on Dec 21 last year.
The four-cornered contest will see incumbent President Islam Karimov, of the Liberal Democratic Party seeking a re-election. The other three candidates are Khatamjan Ketmonov of the People’s Democratic Party; Narimon Umarov of the Social Democratic Adolat (Justice) Party and Akmal Saidov of the Democratic National Renaissance Party.
According to Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Mirza-Ulugbek Abdusalomov, 135 electoral districts, 9,058 polling stations, including 44 abroad, have been set up for the election while the number of registered voters stood at 20,798,052.
Over 340 representatives of local and foreign media covering the election, he said at a briefing.
He said about 300 observers invited from 43 countries including Malaysia, Pakistan, the US and Japan as well as five international organisations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to monitor the election.
Abdusalomov noted the importance of these observers who would add impetus to the CEC to conduct the election in a fair and just manner.
Members of the Malaysian observers who arrived on Friday include Dewan Negara (Senate) deputy president Datuk Doris Sophia Brodi, Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah, who was invited to observe last year’s parliamentary elections, and Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) senior vice-president Max Say, a second-time observer,.
Abdulsalomov stressed on the fair and equal opportunities given to the four candidates to conduct their campaigns in the electronic and print media.
In KUALA LUMPUR, Uzbekistan Ambassador to Malaysia, Murad Askarov said that some 200 Uzbeks who are in this country would cast their vote on Sunday.
The voting will take place at the embassy in Ampang Utama, he said at a recent briefing, which was also attended by Mohd Hashim and Say.
At the briefing Mohd Hashim said that he was sure that this important political event will be held in accordance with recognised international legal norms and democratic standard while Say said there was no doubt that the process will be held in a spirit of openness, transparency and fairness, as well as active participation of citizens.
For Uzbek Yusuf Kasimov, 33, an employee at the Tashkent International Airport, he hoped for a president who would be a good leader and ensure peace for the country.
“I want to feel safe even going out at night,” he told BERNAMA in Tashkent.
In Qarshi, the capital city of Qashqasaryo, a province in southern Uzbekistan, the head of the polling centre, Jurayev Ismail Shodiyech, said that all the election points were ready for the presidential election. Qarshi is about one-and-a-half hour flight from Tashkent.
Shodiyech said that this time 4,000 more people who had turned 18 years old in March were eligable to vote. During the parliamentary elections last year the total number of registered voters in the province stood at some 1.903 million.
He expects a good voter turnout despite the two elections being held within a short span of three months.
“The people will come out to vote because they want this election and it is by law that we have this election,” he said.
As for the qualities that a president should have, both Shodiyech and vice head Sobirjon Qurbonov, said that they hoped for a president who would continue to develop the country and ensure there is peace.
“The most important factor here is peace in the country,” he said.
The polling stations open at 6am and close at 8pm. – BERNAMA