President: Islam Karimov
Islam Karimov has dominated the leadership since 1989 when he rose to be Communist Party leader in then Soviet Uzbekistan. The following year he became president and continued in the post after independence.
A referendum held in 1995 extended his term until 2000 when he won the presidential elections unopposed. A further referendum in 2002 extended the presidential term from five to seven years, but the expiry of his term in January 2007 went largely unnoticed. He gained another term following elections in December 2007 which opponents dismissed as a sham.
Mr Karimov takes a ruthlessly authoritarian approach to all forms of opposition. The few Western observers who monitored parliamentary elections in 2004 condemned them as having failed to meet international standards and pointed out that all the candidates supported the president.
Mr Karimov has been accused of using the threat of Islamic militancy to justify his style of leadership. Observers say the combination of ruthless repression and poor living standards provides fertile breeding ground for violent resistance in a volatile region.
Mr Karimov was born in 1938 in the city of Samarkand and is an economist by profession. He held various senior posts in Soviet Uzbekistan, including finance minister and first secretary of the Uzbek Communist Party Central Committee.