The new president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, wasted no time before starting to consolidate his power, almost immediately after the presidential elections on 4 December 2016.
The widespread view among political observers in Uzbekistan is that Mirziyoyev’s presidential candidature was the result of an informal agreement among key members of the country’s political elite. Apart from Mirziyoyev himself, those include the powerful head of Uzbekistan’s security service, Rustam Inoyatov, and Rustam Azimov, the long-standing first deputy prime minister and minister of finance. For several years Mirziyoyev and Azimov have been tipped by most political analysts as the two most likely successors to Islam Karimov.
In September 2016 Mirziyoyev became acting president. At the time it was speculated that a status quo in which Mirziyoyev was president while Azimov was likely to serve as prime minister under him would last for several years. However, the reality looks quite different today.
Mirziyoyev decided not to appoint Azimov prime minister, instead giving the post to Abdulla Aripov, a senior official in Mirziyoyev’s own cabinet in the 2000s, and for the past four years a lecturer at the Tashkent University of Information Technologies. In late December 2016 Mirziyoyev appointed Batir Khodzhayev, the former deputy minister of economics, as finance minister after removing Azimov from the post. Azimov lost also his first deputy prime ministerial status. He now oversees macroeconomics, structural reforms and attraction of foreign investment.
Mirziyoyev is apparently building his own team, and there is no place for Azimov. The demotion of the latter came sooner than expected by most analysts, but it was foreseeable that Mirziyoyev would take measures to remove his most powerful rival from the top of the political hierarchy.
Image: Uzbekistan's president-elect Shavkat Mirziyoyev attends his swearing-in ceremony/ Xinhua SIPA USA/ Press Association Images