Uzbekistan on the verge of upheaval

Author : Volodymyr Kravchenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Rumors of a serious illness and even death of President Karimov have appeared before, but this time the situation is critical
13:37, 31 August 2016

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Islam Karimov
112 Agency

On Monday, President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov died at the age of 78 years. There is no official confirmation of this information. Rumors of a serious illness and even death of President Karimov have appeared more than once already. On Sunday, the government of Uzbekistan informed the residents that Karimov was hospitalized for in-patient treatment. If the news of the death of Karimov is confirmed, the presidential elections to be held within three months. The country will be temporarily headed by the speaker of the upper house of the Uzbek parliament Nigmatilla Yuldashev. However, Karimov's successor would not be elected by popular vote. Elections will only “fix” the result of secret agreements between the leaders of major clans. Currently, the authoritarian state is a temporary weakened, and it is on the brink of chaos.

Related: Mass Media report Uzbekistan President Karimov died

By creating an effective authoritarian system, capable of controlling the rival clans and regional power structures, Islam Karimov was the guarantor of stability in Uzbekistan. Despite the real threat from Islamic fundamentalists, this politician has managed to maintain the integrity of the country, continuing to strengthen the secular power and control the Uzbek society.

Nevertheless, this agrarian country with significant gas reserves, astonishes with its terrible poverty. Today, unemployment in the 30 millionth Uzbekistan exceeds 30%. The economic problems in the country contribute to the radicalization of the population and lead to increased dissent. The protest moods are not that critical yet. But someday it can break, threatening to sweep away the current regime. In the meantime, Tashkent and the other regions keep calm with no panic or unrests.

There is no pre-agreed candidate, adopted by the majority of the ruling elite, and it creates an acute political crisis that threatens to escalate into a bloody confrontation. Neighborhood with unstable Afghanistan only increases the threat of chaos.

The main contenders are already announced, and there are no opposition politicians among them. Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his first deputy, Rustam Azimov, head of the financial-economic bloc of the government. Shavkat Mirziyoyev belongs to Samarkand clan (like Islam Karimov), and he is a distant relative of one of the richest Russian billionaires Alisher Usmanov, owner of USM Holdings. Rustam Azimov is from Tashkent-Ferghana clan. One of its main duties is to attract foreign investment in Uzbekistan. Rustam Azimov, unlike Mirziyoyev, is considered more liberal politician, and the West sees him as a supporter of market reforms. Russia highlights the pro-Western positions of Asimov and pro-Russian orientation of Mirziyoyev.

A key role in the contenders fight belongs to the head of the National Security Service (NSS), Rustam Inoyatov, the most powerful (after Karimov) politician. His power increased after the events in Andijan in May 2005, when Interior Minister Zakir Almatov was retired.

"Experts believe that 59-year-old Mirziyoyev, who has been heading the government since 2003, has the highest chances to take the presidential palace. According to some reports, the head of the NSS Inoyatov supports him. Some sources report that Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov was placed under house arrest after the death of Islam Karimov.

Related: Uzbekistan canceled additional customs duties on Ukrainian goods

We cannot exclude that the future president of Uzbekistan might be someone from the uninfluential clan, a compromise figure for the major players. This scenario took place in Turkmenistan, when, after the death of Saparmurat Niyazov, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov came to power. He was regarded as a temporary figure, able to maintain a balance of forces. However, Turkmenistan's example shows that those who contribute to the rise to power of the dictator's successor, tend to become its first victims. As soon as the new head of state is strengthening his positions in power, he removes those who brought him to the presidential palace. History of relations between Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and the head of the Security Service of the President Niyazov Akmurad Redzhepov corroborates this fact.

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