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  Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Uzbek citizens went to the polls on Sunday in elections widely
Uzbek citizens went to the polls on Sunday in elections widely expected to extend the rule of Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov.

Karimov, 69, who has ruled the energy-rich Central Asian Republic for 18 years, faces three little known candidates who have publicly expressed their support for his polices. The participation of Karimov's challengers in the elections is seen by critics as an effort by the Uzbek authorities to create the illusion of a free and democratic vote.

Uzbekistan's relations with Western powers have been frosty since the violent suppression of protesters in the town of Andijan in 2005, in which human rights organizations said troops opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. Tashkent has since expelled a number of foreign rights groups, and arrested dozens of protest organizers on charges of Islamist extremism.

The ex-Soviet country's main sources of revenue are exports of cotton, oil, natural gas and gold. Although the standard of living remains one of the lowest in the Commonwealth of Independent States - a loose association of former Soviet republics, the economy has seen strong growth in recent years.


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