Israelis part of int’l observers monitoring Uzbekistan election

Israel was among the first countries to recognize the Central Asian secular Muslim state soon after it declared independence in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union.

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March 30, 2015 03:13
2 minute read.
Tashkent

A woman walks past an election board of Uzbekistan's President and presidential candidate Islam Karimov near a polling station in Tashkent March 29. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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A nine-person Israeli delegation was part of some 300 international observers who on Sunday monitored what the BBC called “one of the world’s most predictable elections.”

Eduard Yakubov, the president of Holon’s Institute of Technology who immigrated to Israel from Uzbekistan some 25 years ago, led the delegation, which included another eight Israelis born in Uzbekistan.

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Though the election is widely seen as a foregone conclusion, with President Islam Karimov – often described as an authoritarian leader who has led the country with an iron fist for a quarter of a century – sure to win a fourth term, Yakubov said this election was “much better” than ones he remembered in the country in 1982, when it was still under Soviet rule.

Yakubov, who traveled among polling places in rural parts of the country, said that contrary to the “stigma,” his impression was that the election was free, not forged, nor even a foregone conclusion.

He said that the Israeli delegation was put together by the Uzbek Embassy in Israel. Asked whether he did not feel he was being used by the Uzbek government to “white wash” a Soviet- style election, Yakubov said that this was much different than elections in the country during the Soviet era.

Karimov was running against three candidates who, according to the BBC, did not articulate any criticism of Karimov or his record during the campaign.

Israel was among the first countries to recognize the Central Asian secular Muslim state soon after it declared independence in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union. The two countries have strong economic ties, with Israel being one of Uzbekistan’s main trading partners. The country has a population of some 31 million people.



In September, at a ceremony in Tel Aviv celebrating the country’s 23th anniversary, then finance minister Yair Lapid said that “the strong ties between our countries have been based on mutual respect, close cooperation and of course the large community of immigrants from Uzbekistan here in Israel, and the longstanding Jewish community living in Uzbekistan.

“Israel will never forget the role that the people of Uzbekistan played in providing shelter and salvation to Jews fleeing [the Holocaust] during World War II,” he added.

Yakubov said the delegation was not coordinated by the Foreign Ministry, though it did meet Israel’s envoy in Tashkent soon after arrival.

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