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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Karimov Gains From Loophole

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Legal confusion between Uzbekistan's constitution and election laws means the country's autocratic president, Islam Karimov, can stay in office for an eighth year without seeking re-election.

Tashkent's silence about the official end of Karimov's seven-year term Jan. 22 is an indication that his grip on power remains strong and he has no intention of leaving, analysts say.

Karimov has wielded a tight grip since taking leadership of Uzbekistan in the declining years of the Soviet Union, cracking down on dissent and suppressing unauthorized sects of Islam. His rule has been widely criticized for human rights abuses including torture and show trials.

The constitution stipulates that presidents serve seven years. Since Karimov was last inaugurated on Jan. 22, 2000, the seven years expired Sunday, Jan. 21. But election law says a vote must be held in December of the year in which the president's term expires -- in this case, December 2007.

The constitution and the law are therefore at odds.

"Whether it's a deliberately created legal ambiguity or not, it's definitely a handy one," said Michael Hall, Central Asia project director of the International Crisis Group think tank.

"There is no sign that Karimov is preparing to leave and he is apparently going to stand for and get another term in December," Hall said.