Uzbek President Islam Karimov was confirmed dead Sept. 2 following speculation that he had already died from a brain hemorrhage reported Aug. 29. It appears that a funeral will be held in Karimov's hometown, Samarkand, on Sept. 3 and will be attended by the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, among others. Though the status of Karimov's health is now clear, his succession plan is still as unclear as ever.
It very well may be that the Uzbek government was withholding confirmation of Karimov's death to solidify the succession plan, increasing the odds that an announcement on the next president will be made as soon as the official mourning period is over. There are three candidates rumored to be in the running to succeed Karimov: Mirziyoyev, Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov and Security Services chief Rustam Inoyatov. Inoyatov is seen as the least likely choice given his own advanced age and preference for influencing politics from behind the scenes.
Though Tashkent has not officially commented on succession, there are several signs that seem to show that Mirziyoyev rather than Azimov will become the next Uzbek president. On Aug 30, reports emerged that Azimov had been placed under house arrest, which, if true, could indicate that the deputy prime minister is being sidelined. However, the report is unconfirmed and has been denied by his office. Yet there have not been any official statements or public appearances by Azimov since the president was reported ill.
Mirziyoyev, on the other hand, has made some notable public appearances, including at an independence monument Aug. 31. The move was an important symbolic gesture at a conspicuous time. Moreover, Mirziyoyev flew to Samarkand on Sept. 1 in likely preparation for the funeral, and on Sept. 2 he was named the chair of the state commission responsible for the memorial. Still, the Uzbek government has remained quiet on succession so far. It seems likely an announcement will be made soon. There will be three days of mourning for the late Uzbek leader, but the much-anticipated announcement is sure to come shortly after — and Mirziyoyev is all but certain to figure prominently in the plan.