In the Soviet period, the only legal political party was the Communist Party. As Soviet control began to disintegrate in 1989–90, a number of mass-based "informal organizations" appeared which grew to be the equivalents of parties, although not all were legally registered. The largest, claiming as many as 100,000 members, was Birlik (Unity), founded by Abdurakhim Pulatov in 1989. Erk (Freedom) was founded in 1990 by Muhammad Solih, who split away from Birlik; in 1991, Solih was a candidate for president, drawing approximately 12% of the vote. Another group, never legally registered, was the Islamic Renaissance Party.
After independence President Islam Karimov began to establish strong authoritarian control. Political opposition was forbidden. Opposition leaders have been beaten, jailed, and exiled. There were five registered parties as of 2003, but their platforms are essentially identical, and all parties with seats in parliament support the president. The People's Democratic Party (NDP) is the renamed Communist Party. Also registered were the Fatherland Progress Party (VTP); the Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party; the Democratic National Rebirth Party; and the Self-Sacrificers Party (the Fatherland Progress Party recently merged with Self-Sacrificers Party).
A political pressure group, the Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party, was reformed as a pro-Karimov party after repudiating its founder, Muhammad Solih, who was forced into political exile. Another pressure group, the Birlik (Unity) Movement was officially banned in mid-1993, but continued to exist.