TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Uzbekistan’s leader called a snap presidential election for July on Monday, the announcement coming a week after a constitutional referendum extended the term from five years to seven.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is in his second term, the maximum allowed by the constitution. But the referendum’s approval allows him to start the term count again and run for two more, raising the possibility that the 65-year-old leader could stay in office until 2037.

Before the referendum, many analysts expected the count to begin only when his current term would have expired in 2026.

It was not immediately clear who would contest the July 9 presidential election, but Mirziyoyev would have almost no chance of losing. He has dominated Uzbek politics since he took office following the 2016 death of longtime leader Islam Karimov.

Mirziyoyev introduced reforms that softened Karimov’s draconian policies, but the country remains strongly authoritarian without significant opposition. All registered political parties are loyal to Mirziyoyev.

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