Uzbekistan’s long-serving leader Islam Karimov has been granted an extension of his current seven-year term of office, which will now stretch into 2015.
According to a law passed by the Senate on March 23, Karimov will face reelection in spring 2015, though his term officially ends in December 2014.
The new law stipulates that presidential elections will be held 90 days after the official results of parliamentary elections, scheduled for December 2014, are published, meaning that voters won’t get to choose their president until spring 2015.
The Senate session heard that the law would “give a powerful impulse to further modernization of the state legal and political system and deepening of democratic reforms and the formation of civil society,” the official UzA news agency reported.
That will no doubt be welcome to the people of Uzbekistan, which has never held an election deemed free and fair by credible international observers.
Like many a Central Asian strongman, Karimov is no stranger to sleights of hand over term limits.
In 1995 he didn’t bother going to the ballot box, using a referendum to extend his rule. In 2000 he stood for reelection in a one-horse race: The “opposition” challenger publicly acknowledged that he had chosen to vote against himself and for Karimov.
In 2002 presidential terms were extended to seven years from five by referendum, prolonging this political survivor’s rule for two more years.
That term should have ended in January 2007—but elections weren’t held until that December, giving him another year in office.
In December 2007 Karimov was due to step down under a rule limiting presidents to two terms—but he didn’t: He was allowed to stand on a convoluted technicality (namely that his first term served under the latest constitution had begun in 2000).
So watch this space in 2015: Will Karimov, who will be 77 and will have been president of independent Uzbekistan for 24 years, bother heading for the ballot box again?