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(L) Russian President Vladimir Putin. (R) Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev on his “convincing victory” in Sunday’s presidential election, in a vote that pitted the incumbent against four little-known candidates.

Putin’s congratulations came hours before any results were officially announced. It was later revealed that Mirziyoyev had won 80.1% of the vote according to the preliminary count. Maqsuda Vorisova of the center-left People’s Democratic Party came in second, with 6.6%.

According to the Kremlin’s website, Putin phoned Mirziyoyev and pledged his country’s commitment “to the further comprehensive development” of Russian-Uzbek relations. Both nations are part of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Mirziyoyev took office in 2016, after the death of Islam Karimov, who had declared the country’s independence in 1991 and remained in power until his last breath. The latest poll marks Mirziyoyev’s first reelection, and he faced four largely unknown candidates who didn’t even turn up to debates on national television. Other opposition figures were excluded from the vote.

The democratic process in Uzbekistan has been the subject of significant criticism by international organizations and election monitors, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) attacking Tashkent for “the lack of genuine pluralism and meaningful engagement between candidates," and describing the poll as “not truly competitive.” The OSCE was part of a joint observation mission with the European Parliament (EP).

“The recent and ongoing reforms are an encouraging sign,” said Heidi Hautala, Head of the EP delegation, according to the OSCE website. “But the exclusion of opposition parties and the lack of genuine competition, as well as the high number of irregularities we saw on election day, remain substantial obstacles in the path of the democratization process.”

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