Karimov, despite his age, is likely to remain in power until his successor is found, which might take five years - a full presidential term.
Islam Karimov (PA)
In December 2014 a new parliament was elected in Uzbekistan. The four mainstream political parties (the Liberal-Democratic Party, the People’s Democratic Party, the Adolat Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Party Milliy Tiklanish) which have been present in the parliament since the early 2000s took part in the election. The election results were announced on 31 December 2014. There were no surprises. The parliamentary mandates were divided between the major political parties and the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan, a public organisation (although not a political party) for which 15 seats in parliament are reserved by law.
Parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan have been criticised since the 1990s as containing no elements of real political competition. Many political commentators viewed the December 2014 elections as no exception to this rule and have pointed out that the most notable aspect was that Uzbekistan’s State Election Commission, together with the announcement of the parliamentary election results, set the date for the next presidential election in the country – 29 March 2015.
The question of Islam Karimov’s political succession has been intriguing Central Asia analysts since the early 2000s and has been the subject of heated debate. Karimov has been ruling Uzbekistan since 1991 and turned 76 in 2014. His political regime is regarded by Western governments and political NGOs as authoritarian. The presidential office, and Karimov personally, call all the shots in the country’s politics. The political landscape has been ‘cleaned out’ of any potential rivals to Karimov. In these circumstances, the question of who will become the next President of Uzbekistan appears to be critical for the country’s future stability.
On 15 December 2015, the Liberal-Democratic Party announced that it will support Islam Karimov’s candidature. So far, Karimov has not confirmed his participation. However, we think it likely that he will run and will win the election as no real competitors will be allowed to take part. This scenario seems most probable because the political succession issue seems not yet to have been decided among members of Uzbekistan’s political elite. For that reason, Karimov, despite his age, is likely to remain in power until his successor is found, which might take five years - a full presidential term. The selection process will very probably be conducted behind the scenes in negotiations between the various clans and influential groups which make up Uzbekistan’s political elite.