If a new poll is to be believed, once again Uzbeks are some of the happiest people on the planet, fully supportive of the path blazed by their strongman president, Islam Karimov, and optimistic about the future.
According to the survey released this week by Tashkent-based pollster Ijtimoiy Fikr (“Public Opinion”), Uzbekistan's citizens "fully" support Karimov’s domestic and foreign policies and his "large-scale comprehensive democratic reforms."
The poll claims that over 80 percent of respondents assess their socioeconomic well-being as "good" and "stable." Moreover, a staggering 90 percent anticipate their lot will improve further this year.
Ijtimoiy Fikr is one of the few polling outfits operating openly in closed Uzbekistan, which some observers believe is because its findings are generally favorable of government policy and the Karimov regime.
In the best tradition of Uzbek statistics management, Ijtimoiy Fikr did not provide any methodological details. If the poll was conducted by telephone, or even by door-to-door researchers, it’s no surprise people responded so positively. Uzbekistan is a neo-Stalinist police state: It’s unlikely anyone would dare criticize the government to a stranger.
Nevertheless, with such widespread support, Karimov has no reason to fear potentially unpopular measures like cutting social benefits for the neediest. Starting on January 1, his government slashed the age at which children stop receiving social benefits from 16 to 14 and chopped other benefits for poor families.
That would seem to contradict Karimov’s moniker for 2013: In December he declared it “The Year of Prosperity and Well-being.” With any luck, though, soon a poll will appear showing just how successful it is.