Voting was underway in Central Asian Uzbekistan's presidential election Sunday, with incumbent Shavkat Mirziyoyev facing no real opposition but plenty of challenges as he bids to reform the ex-Soviet country and still maintain its authoritarian foundations, reports AFP.
Mirziyoyev has been credited for launching what he calls a "New Uzbekistan", ending a decades-old system of forced labour and introducing limited media freedom.
Voting across the landlocked country of 34 million people began at 8:00 am local time (0300 GMT) and will last until 8:00 pm (1500 GMT).
- More freedoms, but no choice -
Prolonged isolation under Karimov meant that commodity-rich Uzbekistan fell well short of its economic potential for most of independence.
It is against the founding president's brutal rule that the successes of Mirziyoyev's reforms have been judged.
His public disavowal of torture and campaign to clean up mass forced labour in cotton fields -- where thousands of schoolchildren once toiled alongside their teachers -- gained international praise.
Mirziyoyev has also sidestepped reforms that would allow competition to his rule.