>>President emerges after two weeks away from limelight>>
FEB. 25 (The Conway Bulletin — After two weeks out of public sight, Uzbek president Islam Karimov resurfaced at an election rally in Kashkadaryo, in the south of the country (Feb. 19).
At the rally, broadcast on state television, he vigorously told watchers to work together harmoniously to build up civil society.
The carefully stage-managed appearance was necessary because Mr Karimov had to, effectively, remind his countrymen that he is still in charge and is healthy, despite rumours of the opposite.
Mr Karimov’s disappearances are a talking point because they generally trigger gossip and musings on his health. Now, barely a month before a presidential election that Mr Karimov is expected to win, that speculation was intensified.
He was last seen at the beginning of February accepting the credentials of the new US ambassador to Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is, currently, relatively unstable. Mr Karimov is 77-years-old and without an apparent successor. His daughter, Gulnara, is under house arrest and the security service chiefs appear stronger than ever. It is not even clear how much authority Mr Karimov holds on a day-to-day basis.
And all this instability is worrying for the West, analysts have said. They think that the West would prefer a strong President Karimov to contain any nascent signs of growing Islamic extremism.
>>This story was taken from issue 220 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper