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The BBC's Louise Hidalgo
"No one here's in any doubt about who's going to win"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 16:37 GMT
Uzbekistan's one horse race

Uzbek Parliament The Uzbek Parliament: No change expected at the top


By Central Asia correspondent Louise Hidalgo

The people of the Central Asian State of Uzbekistan have been voting in an election that the president for the past 10 years, Islam Karimov, is certain to win.

Election officials say there has been a big turnout, and the counting of votes is under way. Provisional results are not expected until Monday.

As he cast his vote, President Karimov told reporters he was sure the Uzbek people would make the right choice.

Almost all voters said that they were backing the president.



As paradoxical as it may sound, I voted for Islam Karimov
Rival candidate
Abdulhafiz Jalalov

Even his only challenger, a little known professor and a former Marxist ideologue for the Uzbek Communist Party, Abdulhafiz Jalolov, said he had voted for President Karimov.

"I voted for stability, peace, our nation's independence, for the development of Uzbekistan," he said.

"So as paradoxical as it may sound, I voted for Islam Karimov."

Asked why he ran in the first place, Professor Jalalov replied: "I ran so that democracy would win."

President Karimov has denied he hand-picked a weak and obedient opponent to make his re-election to a new five-year term look fair.

But the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe took the rare step of refusing to send even a small assessment team to the election, accusing the government of failing to give voters a real choice.

Stability

Stability has been the watchword of Mr Karimov's 10 years as the leader of this mainly Muslim country of 24 million people on the former Soviet Union's southern edge.


Islam Karimov Islam Karimov: Ruled since independence

Uzbeks watched in horror as their smaller southern neighbour Tajikistan was engulfed in war shortly after independence, and President Karimov has been determined that his country should avoid the same fate.

He has accused his opponents, most of whom now are in exile, of trying to destabilise the country and has waged a harsh campaign against outlawed Islamic groups, which has drawn criticism from the West.

Although many Uzbeks complain that they cannot support a family on monthly wages that are the equivalent of $20-$30, they value President Karimov for ensuring political calm.

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