As part of a development model based on gradual political reforms since last December the young, dynamic and most populated Central Asian Nation – Uzbekistan is in the process of renewing its democratic institutions which started with elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Supreme Assembly) and will be concluded by presidential elections scheduled for 29 March 2015.
The parliamentary elections held on December 21, 2014 were different from previous ones, as they were conducted in the context of broadening of Parliament’s powers and following considerable improvements in electoral legislation. So what are key features of these changes?
As part of implementation of a Framework Policy (or Concept) on further deepening democratic reforms and development of civil society over the past four years Uzbekistan has implemented a wide range of constitutional reforms which provide a solid legal basis for strengthening the role of Parliament and political parties, increase inter-party competition and encourage more active involvement of population into political life. A fundamental provision on holding elections only on a multi party basis was enshrined in the legislation. A new procedure for the nomination of Prime Minister by political party that wins the most votes in parliamentary elections or by a group of parties gaining the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament was introduced.
The Parliament is now mandated to hear and debate reports from the Head of Government on key issues of social and economic development of the country. It has a new instrument of exercising control over the Government which is the motion of no confidence. In case of persistent disagreement between Prime Minister and the Legislative Chamber, Parliament may table a motion of no confidence to the Head of Government which would lead to the resignation of the entire cabinet.
Another result of recent constitutional reforms is the transfer of part of powers of the President of the Republic to Senate and to Prime Minister. All these changes constitute an important step towards democratization and a more balanced distribution of powers, in line with a system of checks and balances. Reforms have enabled the bicameral parliament of Uzbekistan to influence other branches of power, exercise control and, when necessary, modify the government’s policy line.
As part of reforms process, the Central Election Commission has been vested with the status of a permanently operating and independent constitutional body. A recently adopted new law provides for strict measures of punishment for offenses such as unlawful interference in the work of the Central Election Commission, infringement of modalities and procedures for conducting election campaign, violation of the rights of candidates, their trustees, election observers and circulating false information about the candidates and political parties
The renewed Legislative chamber of Uzbek Parliament consists of 150 members. 135 of them are directly elected by the people and 15 seats are reserved for representatives of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan.
Four political parties competed in the last parliamentary elections. According to the results of voting, 135 deputy mandates were shared as follows: the Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen – Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan won 52 seats, the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan “Milly Tiklanish” (National Revival) – 36, the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan – 27, the Social Democratic Party “Adolat” (Justice) – 20. In the meantime, 15 members of the Ecological Movement were elected by secret ballot at the conference of this organization.
The newly elected MPs represent a range of ethnic groups including Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Russians, Tajiks, Kazakhs and Koreans. Major part of MPs represent the economic sphere, the next largest groups include education, law, production, healthcare and non-governmental organizations. By age the largest segment is people between the ages of 40-49 (44%).
Elections were monitored by a large group of local and foreign observers. They contributed significantly to the transparency and openness of the electoral process. There were 340 observers from 52 countries and 5 international organizations – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Associations of World Election Bodies and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Along with this, more than 70,000 observers and authorized representatives of political parties were present at polling stations.
The renewal of Uzbek Parliament was completed on 13-14 January 2015 when local councils elected 84 new members of the Senate. The Upper House of the Oliy Majlis is a chamber of territorial representation and consists of 100 senators. They are elected in equal numbers by 6 people – from the Republic of Karakalpakstan, 12 regions and Tashkent city, while 16 senators are appointed by the President from among the most distinguished citizens.
Upcoming presidential elections in Uzbekistan are undoubtedly a key political event. Their outcomes will influence development trends and stability not only in Uzbekistan, but also will have a regional impact.
The Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan registered four candidates for the Presidency representing all political parties, namely:
Mr. Hotamjon Ketmonov nominated by the People’s Democratic Party;
Mr. Akmal Saidov nominated by the « Milliy Tiklanish » (National Revival) Democratic Party;
Mr. Nariman Umarov from the « Adolat » (Justice) Social-Democratic Party and
Mr. Islam Karimov, incumbent President, nominated by the Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen / Liberal-Democratic Party (UzLiDeP).
On February 15, candidates have started election campaigning by meeting voters in different regions of the country.
According to national legislation and a relevant resolution of the Central Election Commission, during the election campaign presidential candidates shall be provided equal rights in terms of using media to bring their election programs to voters. They shall have 900 minutes of airtime on channels of the National Broadcasting Company of Uzbekistan (« Uzbekistan » and « Yoshlar »). Three national periodicals (« Халк сузи», «Народное слово» и «Правда Востока») shall make available free of charge up to 10 pages to each candidate for President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Presidential elections will be held in 9058 polling stations, including 44 in foreign countries.
A simple majority of the votes and a turnout of at least 33 per cent are required for being elected in a first round of voting. If it is not the case, a second round of voting is to be organized by the Central Election Commission between 15 days and one month after the first round. In the run-off between the two leading candidates with most votes from the first round, the candidate who receives more votes is proclaimed elected. There is no turnout requirement in the second round.
Constitutional requirements for the right to be elected as President are Uzbek citizenship, at least 35 years of age, fluency in the state language and permanent residence in Uzbekistan for at least 10 consecutive years prior to the election. Political parties are required to collect a number of supporting signatures equal to or exceeding five per cent of the registered voters, i.e. almost 1 million voters, to be gathered from at least eight different territorial entities (regions), with no more than eight per cent of the signatures from any single entity.
According to the Constitution, citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan who have reached 18 years of age have the right to vote, unless they have been declared incompetent by a court or are imprisoned.
The presidential election is administered by a three-tier election administration headed by the Central Election Commission. 14 District Election Commissions (DECs) administer the election in 12 regions, the city of Tashkent and the Republic of Karakalpakstan. On the precinct level, 9058 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs) administer voting in polling stations, of which 44 serve out-of-country voters. According to the Central Elections Commission of Uzbekistan there are about 20 millions of registered voters in the country.
Particular attention will be paid to ensure openness and transparency of the work of all election commissions by conducting their meetings with participation of representatives of political parties, trustees of presidential candidates, media and foreign observers.
Observers from 5 international organizations, including the OSCE/ODIHR, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, CIS Executive Committee, Associations of World Election Bodies and from about 50 foreign countries are expected to follow the upcoming elections.
By its demography, geostrategic location, strong historical backgrounds and economic weight Uzbekistan remains a key Nation in Central Asia. Being aware of that Uzbekistan intends to continue its efforts to further develop and modernize both politically and economically, as well as to preserve peace and stability, environment of interethnic and interreligious understanding and harmony in the country. Current developments unfolding in our globalized world when it is merely impossible for a Nation to stay aloof of many economic and security challenges Uzbekistan considers as its primary task to further cement friendly relations and mutually advantageous cooperation with all countries, first of all with its neighbors, and further strengthen its constructive participation in multilateral activities within various international organizations.