Central Asia Program Series Publications Uzbekistan Briefs

Uzbekistan at a crossroads: Main developments, business climate, and political risks

Uzbekistan Initiative Papers No. 10, February 2014

By Akhmed Said

Uzbek patronage politics are complex and fluid. Individual loyalty of officials to each other, their past professional ties, and their common business interests play a far greater role than their regional affiliation in Uzbek elite politics.

A salient feature of Uzbek politics is the country’s woefully weak formal state agencies and disproportionately influential informal institutions.

The top current elite hierarchy is composed of three influential groups, whose leaders are members of President Karimov’s inner circle: Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoev; National Security Service (SNB) chief Rustam Inoyatov; First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov, and Elyor Ganiev, Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade.

Because power and wealth are intricately linked, these officials have developed reputations as the country’s major oligarchs. Mirziyoev and Inoyatov carry greater weight than Azimov and Ganiev. Both are viewed by Uzbek officials as Karimov’s potential political heirs, but Mirziyoev is believed to have several advantages in the leadership contest

One paradoxical attribute of Karimov’s rule is that a dramatic expansion of the government bureaucracy in the past two decades has coincided with a steep decline in its capacity to effectively implement policies.

The government’s harsh response to the Andijon events has since served as a powerful deterrent for civil society and social groups. The memory of the events, however, is unlikely to stop Uzbeks from protesting, should the government fail to address socio-economic conditions, which are continuing to deteriorate.

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