Uzbekistan: The Endgame is Nigh

30 Aug

With confusion swirling around the fate of Uzbekistan’s long-serving president Islam Karimov, who suffered a brain haemorrhage on 27 August, succession scenarios have mushroomed across the media.

According to an Instagram post from Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, the  ailing president’s youngest daughter, on 29 August, the strongman leader, who has been at the helm of Uzbekistan since before independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, was hospitalised following the cerebral haemorrhage and was in a ‘stable’ condition. Later reports, still unconfirmed, claimed the president had died on that day at 15.35 Tashkent time. The presidential administration subsequently denied this.

This has brought into sharp focus the question of who is next in line to the throne. The frontrunners are Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Finance Minister and first deputy to Mirziyoyev, Rustam Azimov and national security head Rustam Inoyatov, according to EurasiaNet.org and RFE/RL.

Mirziyoyev, 59, is considered to be a gruff hardliner, while Azimov, 57, is a relatively more urbane figure, used to dealing with the wider world. Inoyatov, 72, is more likely to be the kingmaker, unless he’s keen to play Andropov to Karimov’s Brezhnev and delay the long-term succession question.

The Karimov clan could provide a dark horse in the form of the president’s younger daughter, the aforementioned Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, or her husband Timur Tillyaev, but after the spectacular reversal of fortunes of elder daughter Gulnara Karimova, the Karimov clan’s stock may not be very high these days.

Gulnara Karimova, the artist formerly known as GooGoosha, has been under house arrest in Tashkent since early 2014. The chances of her apeing Leicester City and coming good at 5,000-1 are extremely remote.

Tashkent is predictable in its unpredictability, so the close-knit cabal of Uzbekistan’s ruling elite may well have a surprise up its collective sleeve as to who will best protect their interests.

One thing is certain, the will of the people is unlikely to play any significant role in the choice of successor.

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