From a Eurasianet report:
Uzbekistan is to hold snap presidential elections on July 9, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has said, citing the need to pursue wide-ranging reforms as a reason for bringing the vote forward by more than three years.
You may be wondering why I am writing about snap presidential elections in Uzbekistan. Part of the reason is because one of our first articles covered (somewhat humorously) a 4-hour 2017 speech by the certain winner of the upcoming snap elections, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Almost certain!? Is this not an election!? Eurasianet explained the circumstances:
The announcement on May 8 appears at first glance to confirm suspicions that changes to the constitution approved in a carefully choreographed referendum held last month were in large part engineered to enable Mirziyoyev, 65, to extend his time in office. Under the new rules, he will be allowed to seek election to another seven-year terms, instead of having to step aside at the end of his current and last permitted five-year term in 2026.
Many presidents around the world have felt that itch to change the constitution when staring down term limits. Pure coincidence I assure you. Not every president does, however. Russian President Vladimir Putin found a clever way to circumvent his first brush with term limits, but he took a more traditional path through the obstacle in the second instance. Maybe neighboring Kazakhstan will defy expectations after recently implementing term limits with the support of its current strongman president.
But credit to Mr. Mirziyoyev: He is working to maintain plausible deniability!
While speaking to the heads of the two chambers of parliament, political party leaders and ministers, however, Mirziyoyev volunteered an alternative range of explanations for calling early elections that he is guaranteed to win in Uzbekistan’s competition-free political system.
These circumstances vindicate my thesis from my 2020 article on Mr. Mirziyoyev’s four-hour speech:
While Mr. Mirziyoyev’s address may have struck some fine notes, even the most beautiful hymn to liberty would be bound to strike a discordant note by the third hour. I respectfully submit that the length of an autocratic president’s discourse must be considered in addition to the message in determining the likelihood of reform.
(All jokes and cynicism aside, I submit for the record that Mr. Mirziyoyev’s move to remain in power indefinitely is not preventing Uzbekistan, which has been under strongman rule for more than three decades after the end of Soviet rule, from becoming a flourishing democracy. It is most likely ensuring that Mr. Mirziyoyev remains the strongman instead of someone else. While Uzbekistan’s human rights situation, by traditional metrics, remains subpar, there have been some minor positive steps in recent years including the abolition of its Soviet-era exit visa system and recent reforms to laws concerning domestic violence and the abuse of women (jury is out on the implementation, however)).