There is enough time till the early presidential election in Uzbekistan scheduled for Dec 4. But the outcome is already predetermined: the new president will most probably be acting president Shavkat Mirziyoyev. If this happens, Uzbekistan will continue pursuing the same policy, believes Uzbek political analyst Farkhod Tolipov, who has answered several questions to EADaily’s correspondent.
Do you really think one should not expect drastic changes in the Uzbek policy and Shavkat Mirziyoyev will follow the path of Islam Karimov?
I do not think it correct to put the question in such a straightforward wording. In Uzbekistan, like in any other country, its domestic and foreign policy was not shaped by the will of a single person, be it the head of state. Of course, his position and decisions were the determining and dominating ones, but in general the complicated work of shaping and implementing the foreign policy was a result of a more complicated process in which key agencies and ministries are involved.
The presidential policy was a result of many factors. They include activities of his aides, foreign affairs institutions and the ministry, various law enforcement bodies, the situation in the world, the situation in the region, geopolitical factors caused by pressure or policies of major powers. So, it would be more correct to say of a team work to form and implement the foreign policy. That is why with replacement of the head of state one should not expect any profound changes.
Can these factors change quickly after the power shift?
Actually, these are the factors that do not change. All the key figures in the political establishment in Uzbekistan remain at their positions and keep on working. The regional situation does not change either. The geopolitical factors are relatively stable and they never depended on the former president’s will. So, no matter who comes to power after Karimov – he can only correct the policy someway. However, the dominating track and key features of the policy will remain the same in the near future. This also has to do with inertia of the state machine moving along its political track; no one can either stop it or change the direction after replacement of the leader.
Moreover, even if we put the question simply and superficially of how the foreign policy of Uzbekistan will change, say, if it becomes more pro-Russian or, on the contrary, pro-American, an answer to it should be trivially connected to ambitions or preferences of the new leader. One should examine the whole complex of laws that determine the policy.
For instance, we say that a quarter of Uzbek foreign trade is with Russia. It would be unreasonable to expect that this figure will grow or fall dramatically. I would like to stress it by a small example that Uzbekistan and Russia after achieving this level of mutual trade will hardly be able to offer anything else to each other in order to influence this figure significantly. Especially, if we look at the structure of this trade. We have reached the ceiling in this field, and it would be groundless to suppose that it can grow only because Uzbekistan has a new president.
The same thing is about the western direction. Uzbekistan is not isolated from the world, we live in a time of globalization, so no ambitions or personal attitudes can increase the volume of cooperation with the West that was established during Islam Karimov’s rule. Summarizing, I would say that at least in the near future “the new policy” will be the same one.
What about threats? If there are any pre-requisites for Islamists to shatter Uzbekistan?
Just imagine this situation with the first president and acting president. When we speak of the Islamist treat for Uzbekistan and associate stability and security with the name of the first president, we do not really mean that he was defending the country with his own life. The new leader won’t be doing it either. It is complicated process that should be associated not only with subjective factors, but with objective ones too. Factors like the level of development of governmental institutions, security agencies and objective assessment of the level of external threat. It is not enough to speak of Islamism and other threats without specifying their intensity or dynamics. These are variable figures and they need to be assessed adequately, taking into account various conditions and dimensions. From this point of view, external threats are not that vital to expect an offensive of some enemies just because Uzbekistan has a new president.
Can other candidates appear at the presidential race apart from Mirziyoyev, other political figures or shall we see the traditional list of leaders of political parties?
It is impossible to analyze this now due to deficit of facts. It became evident after the most recent session of the parliament that political parties’ leaders supported Mirziyoyev’s candidature as acting president. But the way they did it was so unexpected that it provoked a feeling that they were electing him not for three months, but for the five years. Such was the style and mood of this support. Deriving from this, it is hard to expect that some of the political leaders would compete with Mirziyoyev at the election. They proved to be incapable of participating in a political struggle. Of course, one should not rule out anything ever, but I see no premises for breakthrough in this field.