Parliamentary polls kick off in Uzbekistan

ANKARA - Parliamentary polls opened in Uzbekistan on Sunday for more than 20 million registered voters in general elections where all four competing parties support President Islam Karimov's policies.

The elections to the lower legislative chamber of Oliy Majlis -- the Uzbek parliament -- started at 06:00 (UTC/GMT +5 hours) and will operate till 20:00 (UTC/GMT +5 hours).

Sunday's electoral contest is between four parties -- the Liberal Democratic Party, People's Democratic Party, the Democratic Party Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival) and the Social Democratic Party Adolat (Justice) -- to elect parliamentarians to the 150-seat lower house.

The parties are competing to fill 135 seats. The remaining 15 seats will automatically go to the Ecological Movement. 

Uzbekistan's Supreme Assembly has 150 members in the Legislative Chamber, elected for five-year terms and 100 members in the Senate, where 84 members elected at the sessions of district, regional and city deputies, and 16 members are appointed by the president. 

Authorities sent out text messages encouraging people to vote on Sunday and the head of the central election commission Mirza-Ulugbek Abdusalamov told reporters that all the conditions were set for a "free and fair elections."

Karimov, 76, has been in power for two decades since the fall of the Soviet Union. He won a further seven-year term in 2007. The presidential election is scheduled for next March.

Uzbekistan, with a population of more than 30 million people, is a state dominated by the supporters of the president. Opposition parties are allowed, but they are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) deployed an election observation mission (LEOM) after a formal invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

There are more than 300 observers from 40 countries.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency