Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov appears to be doing something unusual for a dictator: lowering his public profile.
Professor Olim Hasanov at UZNEWS reports that formerly ubiquitous billboards with pictures and quotations from President Karimov have been slowly disappearing from public view. Is the wily Central Asian dictator in the middle of a power struggle, or is he simply turning his personality cult down a notch for other reasons? Some suspect a ruse. Hasanov's report quotes an unnamed parliamentarian who put Karimov's disappearing act in some perspective:
"Do you remember what Karimov did in 1991 at our parliamentary session? He said: 'Let me have three months, and you will see what I can do.' And what did he do? He doubled the number of prisons, police and intelligence service offices, tripled their salaries, and increased their powers five fold. He has deprived their people of their last rights, and their last pieces of bread."
There will be a presidential election in Uzbekistan this year, but should he decide to run again, Karimov will certainly win by any means necessary. However, at age 70, Karimov is reaching the point in most dictators lives where they start thinking seriously about passing their titles onto their successors. Is he slowing down? Bowing out? Too soon to tell, but you can be sure that whatever happens will be discussed in detail at the Registan.net blog (motto: "All Central Asia, All the Time").