Uzbeks set to reelect Karimov as President

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Moscow, Dec 23 (UNI) Voters in former Soviet Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan are taking part in the presidential election today, which incumbent President Islam Karimov is expected to win against largely token opposition.

Mr Karimov has completed his two terms he is allowed under the constitution and there is no explanation as to why he can run again.

He has ruled the energy-rich Uzbekistan for 18 years and faces three little known candidates who have publicly expressed their support for his polices.

The participation of Karimov's rivals in the elections is seen by critics as an effort by the Uzbek authorities to create the illusion of a free and democratic vote.

Uzbek relations with Western powers have been frosty since the violent suppression of protesters in the town of Andijan in 2005, in which human rights organisations said troops opened fire on the crowd, killing hundreds.

Tashkent has since expelled a number of foreign rights groups and arrested dozens of protest organisers on charges of Islamic extremism.

Uzbekistan's main sources of revenue are exports of cotton, oil, natural gas and gold.

UNI

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