High turnout as Uzbekistan votes in presidential election certain to keep Karimov in power

Uzbekistan's election commission says more than 70 percent of eligible voters have already cast their ballots midway through an election certain to be won by longtime leader Islam Karimov.

The 77-year-old Karimov has led the former Soviet republic in Central Asia since the late 1980s and ruthlessly quashed all opposition to his rule.

While Uzbekistan is untroubled by any immediate signs of unrest, its future is colored with uncertainty amid a troubled security situation in neighboring Afghanistan and lack of a clear succession plan should Karimov suddenly leave the scene.

At a briefing reported by Russian news agencies, Central Election Commission chairman Mirzo-Ulugbek Abdusalomov said turnout hit nearly 72 percent by 1 p.m., with polls open for another seven hours.

Karimov last won re-election with 91 percent of the vote.