On 29th March this year, Uzbekistan held a presidential election, and I had the good fortune to be invited again to be an observer at the elections. I had requested to follow the elections in the city of Navoi, something that the Election Committee graciously had agreed to.
The director of Uzbekistan Encyclopedia Publishing House had accompanied me the first time I was an observer for parliamentary elections in December 2014, and it was a great pleasure to have him again as a host during my stay. Honestly, I could not have found anyone better. This time too he did everything in his power to accommodate me.
As last time, in order to let me « take the temperature » of the elections in the capital, he brought me to the market, so that I could experience the positive atmosphere first-hand. We also went to visit several polling stations, to observe the final preparations before the voting. In Tashkent we visited altogether four polling stations – each one in a different part of the city. The aim was to show me areas which I had not previously visited
Once more at this stage I was struck by the transparency of the procedure, and how well organised everything was – each voting station had a room serving as a nursery for the children, another one was for a medical team, everything was clean, orderly. There were seats reserved for the observers – both internationals and nationals… Everything was transparent, and the people in charge were more than happy to show me around. People were smiling, positive, and they all said the same thing: that this election meant a lot to them, and they felt it their duty to contribute to the development of their country. One striking fact though, was the love and affection people have for the current president. People really love him, and you can feel it.
On the 24th we travelled to Fergana Valley, and returned to Tashkent on the 26th March. The aim was to visit one of the dynamic economic centres of the country and also to visit other voting stations. We were well received by a representative of local authorities who took excellent care of us during our stay in Fergana. He also gave me a lot of information about the SME business development and all the different measures the authorities take to encourage economic development. It was indeed most interesting, and useful information.
The following day, we left for Nukus to visit the incredible museum that the world started to discover in the 1990s. I had heard about the treasures that Igor Savitsky had collected from some of other observers, and host had managed to include a one day trip there in our busy schedule.
We were well received the representatives of local authorities. We visited three voting stations and were so fortunate to attend a concert and a ballet performance by very talented young artists. Nukus is indeed a city very rich in culture, something that I would never have imagined before going there. After lunch I had the chance to spend two hours in the Nukus museum so see a part of the rich and impressive collections. It really deserves more international recognition, and to get more visitors.
Arriving back late evening we left early next day for Navoi in the morning. We were well received and taken to the hotel by the chairman of the election committee Mr Botirov, who had organised a wonderful programme for me balancing culture, history, business and visits to voting stations. The first day we visited the coordination centre before we went to see others. On the 29th at 5:30 am, we were at one of the numerous voting stations, waiting for voters to come to cast their votes. It was amazing, in this voting station, people were waiting to vote. The first one to vote, was an elderly woman who explained to me how important these elections were for the development of the country.
The atmosphere was pleasant, serein, and we went to visit another voting station. During the day we went to five different ones, and they were all very well organised, transparent, and we were always greeted warmly.
After a long and busy afternoon, we returned to the first voting station, and we found the same people sitting there. They had not left their positions since 6 am. At 8 in the evening, sharp, the chairman of the voting station pronounced the closing speech, and the next step was going to be undertaken: the counting of the votes. We were observing the counting of the votes, and everything was as expected – clear, transparent….
Since its independence, Uzbekistan has gone through many reforms, and the country has grown to be the major power in Central Asia. With a population close to 32 million inhabitants (almost half of the population of the Central Asia region), it has a solid, growing economy. It is a multi-ethnic country, with a long and rich history and has embarked on the path of democracy, and I can only admire their efforts and hard work. When you think about what they inherited when the Soviet Union broke down, and when they had to start building everything from scratch, and what they have achieved since then up today, nobody can deny that they have been blessed with good, solid and visionary leadership, something the elections also reflected with the re-election of the President.
On a personal note, I feel very grateful for having had this chance to be an observer to these historical elections. It gave me a unique chance to meet people, ordinary men and women, proud of their country, and who want it to develop. They had worked hard, for more than 3 months non-stop, to organise everything, and not a single detail had been neglected. The joy of the people, their pride when they showed us around, talked about the elections, about the voting centre… it was indeed a huge pleasure, a wonderful experience.
I would also like to thank each one of you – for your generosity, your kindness and for having taken of your precious time to show me around, to share your experience, your knowledge…for having given me unforgettable memories.