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Politics & change in Uzbekistan: How far will post-Karimov reforms go?
Uzbekistan is undergoing unprecedented reforms since the election of the new reformist president Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The IMF-backed economic liberalisation, the release of the political prisoners, and reorganisation of the omnipotent secret police have made it into the headlines of the major Western media outlets. The people of Uzbekistan are dazzled by the pace of change and are gladly rallying behind the new reformist leader. Hopeful of a new all-inclusive democratic political system, the Uzbek political groups in exile are rushing to express their optimism about the new government.
Some Western observers have already dubbed the changes as the ‘Uzbek Spring’. One Uzbek human rights activist, once forcibly placed in psychiatric care, is reportedly petitioning to nominate Mirziyoyev for the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite all the hype, several significant questions remain, including: How sustainable are these changes going to be, given Mirziyoyev’s reticence concerning systemic political reforms? How far can Uzbekistan’s positive engagement go in creating a new regionalism in Central Asia? Reflecting on the domestic and foreign policy Mirziyoyev pursued during the first 500 days of his presidency, this presentation proposes some answers to these questions.
Dr Shuhrat Baratov is a Lecturer in Government and Politics, in the Faculty of Government, Business and Law at the University of Canberra, where he teaches Politics and Security in the Asia-Pacific and International Relations units. He graduated from The ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (The Middle East and Central Asia in 2017. He is currently working on a book on the ontological security issues in the Tajik-Uzbek relations (to be published with Palgrave Macmillan).