Outdoing even Russia, the authoritarian Central Asian country of Uzbekistan seem to have no problem ignoring its constitution when it comes to keeping the top boss in office: two-time president Islam Karimov, who has had both his terms in office extended by referendums already, has been cleared by the Central Electoral Commission to run for a third term, despite the small matter of a constitutional limit of two terms. Although there are three other candidates running for the office – all of whom are regarded as Karimov loyalists – our money’s definitely on Karimov. He won his last election with 92 percent of the vote. For those of you who thought that the Kremlin was the first to invent false opposition parties, think again.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Russia isn’t the only country in the post-Soviet space that wants to micro-manage its elections. The following story from Uzbekistan tells how the authorities there are using their heavy hand to ensure that during the elections, all foreign observers and journalists are herded into state-owned luxury hotels, where the money they spend on room and board will go to the state and not the fragile private sector, and where it will be that much easier to monitor and eavesdrop on their phone calls and email correspondence.From www.travel.ru:
All private hotels of the B&B class situated in Samarkand [Uzbekistan’s second-largest city, and a popular tourist center] have received an instruction from the local authorities to cease activity until 5 January 2008, refusing bookings for accommodations that have already been made or resettling guests in the more expensive hotels «Afrosiab» and «Prezident Palas», belonging to the state.Representatives of the hospitality business associate such a decision of the authorites with the upcoming presidential elections, which will take place in Uzbekistan on 23 December, and with the fears of the authorities that they will lose control over the journalists and independent observers who have come to the republic. As is noted by the «Fergana.ru» news agency, an analogous situation is developing not only in Samarkand, but in other popular tourist centers as well.