(Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his Uzbekistan counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev in a phone call and a telegram on Monday for his “convincing victory” in presidential elections -- hours before the central Asian nation’s electoral commission had declared the results. 

Admittedly, Mirziyoyev, who took office in 2016 after the death of the long-serving autocrat Islam Karimov, faced little prospect of defeat in Sunday’s poll against four largely unknown opponents who failed even to take part in televised debates. Uzbekistan’s central election commission later declared Mirziyoyev the winner with 80% support.

The Kremlin didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment. It’s accepted form for leaders of other nations to wait until after a country announces the results of elections before sending official messages. The presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan also sent early congratulations to Mirziyoyev, whose efforts to open up Uzbekistan economically haven’t extended so far to its political system. 

“While multiple candidates contested the election, there was no meaningful engagement with each other or with voters, and candidates refrained from challenging or criticizing the incumbent,” international observers led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe concluded in a preliminary report that found “significant irregularities” in voting and counting procedures. 

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