Uzbekistan. In August, President Islam Karimov suffered
from brain hemorrhage and received intensive care in
hospital. Rumors of his death circulated for some time, and
in early September it was officially confirmed that the
78-year-old president had died.
countryaah, Karimov had ruled the country with iron hand for more
than a quarter of a century, and his death sparked
speculation about a power struggle within the regime. Under
the Constitution, the Senate president would take over as
acting president, but the president proposed to the more
experienced Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev. It was
appointed by Parliament and described as a guarantee of
continuity and stability. Mirziyoyev said he would run for
office in December.
Karimov had tried to maneuver between the great powers to
get support from different directions. After his death,
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Tashkent and, in a
meeting with Mirziyoyev, he hoped that Karimov's policy
would continue. Putin said that Uzbekistan could count on
Moscow as its most reliable friend. It was interpreted as a
call for continued hard line against dissent. The United
States, for its part, sent a mid-level diplomat urging the
new leader to improve Uzbekistan's human rights credentials.
According to human rights groups, hundreds of political
prisoners are in Uzbek prisons, and torture is common.
Uzbekistan is heavily dependent on the Russian economy,
mainly because a few million Uzbek citizens are estimated to
be guest workers abroad and especially in the Russian
In October, media reported that rival clans opposed
Mirziyoyev alone to take over Karimov's power. It was
reportedly agreed that Mirziyoyev would face out with the
title of president, but the decision-making would be shared
with Karimov's security chief Rustam Inoyatov and Deputy
Prime Minister and Finance Minister Rustam Azimov. The
settlement was said to be made between the region-based
clans that dominate Uzbekistan's economy and society.
In October, a court sentenced 72-year-old political
prisoner Samandar Kukanov to another three years in prison.
Kukanov had already served 20 plus two years in prison for
alleged embezzlement and violation of prison rules.
According to the opposition, Kukanov was seen as a personal
enemy of Karimov because of his criticism of him and his
support for opposition movements.
The United States called on Uzbekistan to pardon Kukanov
on humanitarian grounds, and barely two weeks before the
presidential election, Kukanov was surprisingly released.
Four candidates participated in the December presidential
election. Mirziyoyev was nominated by Karimov's power party
the Liberal Democratic Party, and although the other
candidates and their parties characterized themselves as
oppositional, they essentially followed the official
According to official data, Mirziyoyev won by over 88% of
the vote, and turnout was said to be almost 88%. According
to the OSCE, the election highlighted the need for radical
reform in Uzbekistan. No election in the country has been
described by the OSCE observers as democratic and free.
Deputy Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov was appointed to
succeed Mirziyoyev as head of government.
At the end of the year, a committee of the European
Parliament approved a textile trade agreement with
Uzbekistan, which, according to human rights activists,
means that the EU benefits from forced labor in the
Uzbekistan cotton industry. As a result, a previous decision
to allow the agreement to be rested due to allegations of
child labor and forced labor was revoked. According to EU
parliamentarians, Uzbekistan had made progress by removing
children from the fields, but the agreement was said to be
conditional on actions also against forced labor for adults.
The agreement was also approved in the European Parliament.