As the three-day period of mourning for former President Islam Karimov comes to an end, Uzbekistan’s political elite must now decide who will succeed the former authoritarian leader.
The UK FCO has advised that there may be additional restrictions on entry to the country around the mourning period, but we have not seen any specific indications of this occurring. So far there have been no notable changes to the security environment in the country and no major Western countries have changed their overall advice on travel to the country.
As we outlined in our assessment last week, we think that the most probable scenario at present is that members of the powerful political elite will agree on a successor behind the scenes. This does bring the potential for factional fighting, but we think this would probably remain confined to Tashkent. And so far, none of the early warning indicators for a more violent transitional period, including the detention of elites or movements of military hardware or troops to the capital, seem to have occurred. For more details on these indicators and the most probable successors see O-30-08-16-UZ-1.
There were rumours last week that the deputy prime minister, Rustam Azimov, had been detained, but his prominent presence at the funeral on Saturday disproved that rumour. Azimov, Rustam Inoyatov, the head of the National Security Services, and Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the prime minister, appear the most likely candidates for the presidency. All three will probably seek to ensure the continuity of the political system, built by the former president, through the transitional process and at least into the first few months of the new president’s term.
It seems that the formal process, as set out in the Uzbek constitution, will last at least three months. During this time the parliament (Oliy Majlis) is responsible for running the affairs of state and preparing for presidential elections. Based on expert interpretations of the constitution, it seems there is some room for manoeuvre in the timing of these elections, but they are supposed to happen before the end of the year. It is also unclear whether the government will follow this process, but if it does, we still think that the elites are likely to decide their replacement behind the scenes.
Image: Uzbek President Islam Karimov with Dmitry Medvedev in Tashkent in 2009, Kremlin.ru, Creative Commons