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Uzbekistan's LibDems lead in vote criticised by Western observers

FILE PHOTO: Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev attends a news conference with his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan’s Liberal Democratic Party have retained the biggest number of seats in the Central Asian nation’s legislature so far, winning 43 seats out of 128 in Sunday’s vote which Western monitors criticised for “numerous serious irregularities”.

Although Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev has no party affiliation, it was the Liberal Democrats who nominated him for presidency in the 2016 election.

All five parties taking part in the election back Mirziyoyev, who has embarked on a campaign to reform the resource-rich Central Asian nation and open it up to foreign investment. [L8N28W021]

The vote count has been assessed negatively in 42% of the stations observed by the mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, it said, citing issues such as proxy voting.

OSCE observers, however, praised Uzbekistan’s efforts to improve the legal framework and make the vote more open.

“While an important milestone has been passed, old problematic habits – including on election day – make it clear that much work remains,” George Tsereteli, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observer mission, said.

“Regrettably, the new legislation and modernised administration of elections did not improve the polling process, with international observers reporting numerous serious irregularities, such as voting on behalf of others and disregard for key procedures during counting.”

The Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival) party has won 35 seats, the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party got 21, the People’s Democratic Party 18 and the green Ecological Party has won 11 seats so far.

The remaining 22 seats in the lower house of parliament will be contested in the second round of voting next month, Central Election Commission Chairman Mirza-Ulugbek Abdusalomov said on Monday, adding that the body would investigate all complaints.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Additional reporting and writing by Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty; Editing by Alison Williams