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History, Independent Republic

President Karimov, Muhammad Salih, Supreme Assembly, Karimov, official election results

The disintegration of the Soviet Union became inevitable in August 1991, after a failed coup attempt by Communist hard-liners in Moscow. That month Uzbekistan declared its independence. After the official collapse of the USSR in December, Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an alliance of most of the former Soviet republics.

Uzbekistan held presidential elections in December 1991, at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Karimov, the incumbent president, was reelected by an overwhelming majority of the vote. Most political groups in opposition to the PDP were not allowed to field candidates. The sole exception was Erk (Freedom), which nominated Muhammad Salih. Karimov, however, controlled the press and other vital organs during the campaign. According to official election results, Salih received only 12 percent of the vote. After the election, Karimov proceeded to establish an authoritarian-style regime. His government sought to crush political opposition, for example, by banning all genuine opposition parties in the early 1990s.

Karimov justified the clampdown on political opposition in 1992, claiming that allowing it more freedom would leave Uzbekistan vulnerable to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Karimov pointed to the civil war in neighboring Tajikistan, claiming that violence could also break out in Uzbekistan without strict controls on political activity.

In January 1995 President Karimov announced that the government would not object to the formation of blocs within the Oliy Majlis (Supreme Assembly). Subsequently, two new political parties were created: the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party and the National Revival Democratic Party. However, these parties were not considered true opposition parties. In a referendum called by the assembly in March 1995, voters approved putting off presidential elections until the year 2000, extending Karimovís term until then. In April a group of activists affiliated with the outlawed opposition party Erk (Freedom) were given lengthy prison sentences for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government by force.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan proceeded slowly with reforms to transform its Soviet-developed, centrally planned economy to one based on the principles of a free market. Uzbekistanís vast natural resources are generally regarded as a boon to the republicís future economic development.

Karimov continued to rule in an authoritarian manner. No opposition party was allowed to run candidates in the legislative elections that were held in December 1999. In January 2000 Karimov was reelected president in an election that Western observers criticized as neither free nor fair.



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