Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

Uzbek opposition to boycott election

November 7, 2004


— An Uzbek opposition party announced Saturday that it would boycott next month's parliamentary vote, saying the government had failed to embrace democracy and calling on the international community to ignore the election.

Election officials have refused to let opposition parties run on the Dec. 26 ballot, disqualifying their registrations on technicalities.

"Considering the economic, political and social situation in Uzbekistan, we may say the election can't be either free, democratic or fair," Atonazar Arifov, head of the unregistered Erk party, told journalists in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

This former Soviet republic has five legal political parties, all of which publicly support President Islam Karimov -- a former communist who has held power since just before the 1991 Soviet collapse.

In the early 1990s, Karimov outlawed the main opposition parties and forced their leaders into exile.

"The official political landscape remains a desert," Erk, which claims to have about 60,000 members, said in a statement Saturday. "The parties allowed to participate in the elections personally belong to the president and represent his personal interests, not the interests of the people."

Another opposition group, the Free Peasants party, also has announced it would boycott the vote.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has said it would send a limited observer mission to next month's vote. But Erk called on international groups not to participate or send any monitors so as "to unmask the anti-democratic essence of this election."

During a visit to Tashkent last week, OSCE envoy and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari expressed regret that no opposition parties would be allowed to participate.

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