- Title: Uzbekistan's interim leader votes in presidential election
- Date: 4th December 2016
- Summary: PEOPLE ENTERING POLLING STATION
- Embargoed: 19th December 2016 09:33
- Keywords: Uzbekistan presidential election Mirziyoyev
- Location: TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN
- City: TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN
- Country: Uzbekistan
- Reuters ID: LVA0025BGVMMF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Uzbekistan's prime minister and interim president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, looks likely to win a presidential election on Sunday (December 4) by a landslide and become the second leader of Central Asia's most populous nation since independence.
Yet the biggest challenge may still lie ahead for the 59-year-old - establishing the same level of authority as his all-powerful predecessor, Islam Karimov, in whose shadow Mirziyoyev spent more than a decade.
Karimov, who ran the rich former Soviet republic of 32 million people with an iron fist since 1989, died from a stroke in September, aged 78.
Mirziyoyev, cabinet head since 2003, swiftly emerged as Karimov's most likely successor after the speaker of the upper chamber Senate stepped aside for him. Under the constitution the speaker would normally assume the role of interim head of state.
Despite pledging continuity, Mirziyoyev has announced plans for economic reforms, including a liberalisation of the tightly controlled foreign exchange market, and has acted to ease strains in relations with neighbouring Central Asian countries.
Diplomats say he is also expected to move Uzbekistan closer to Russia, its Soviet-era overlord.
An engineer by training, Mirziyoyev began ascending the Communist Party career ladder in the 1980s, becoming a member of Uzbekistan's legislature by the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
According to a 2009 United States embassy cable published by Wikileaks, Karimov regarded Mirziyoyev as "unprofessional" and planned to replace him eventually, although not immediately.
Running against Mirziyoyev in Sunday's election are Khatamjon Ketmonov, Narimon Umarov and Sarvar Otamuratov, the nominees of three parties in parliament which present themselves as the opposition but have always toed the official line.
Polling stations are open from 6 a.m. (0100 GMT) until 8 p.m. (1500 GMT). Uzbekistan has 21.4 million eligible voters.
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