On the 30th April 2023, the Uzbek population participated in the country’s first Constitution Referendum since the country gained its independence in 1991. By Marit Fosse
The Constitution was originally ratified in 1992, one year after the country became independent. Under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev a comprehensive reform programme has been undertaken and a new set of constitutional reforms has been prepared under the direction of Uzbekistan’s Constitutional Reform Commission.
An initial draft constitution was published in June 2022, which was followed by a public consultation period. Various parliamentary committees, overseen by the commission, subsequently reviewed citizens’ feedback before making changes. It was in March this year that a final draft of the referendum was unveiled and the vote scheduled for April 30. The final draft altered 65 percent of the existing Uzbek Constitution, including the introduction of 27 new articles and 159 new provisions.
Aspects of the new constitution are considered as being real progress such as protections for people from wanton home demolition, provisions barring discrimination against women in the workplace due to pregnancy, and enshrining the right to remain silent for those accused of crimes.
We had the fortune to be in Tashkent during the referendum visiting voting stations. The referendum was well prepared, the voting stations were mainly in schools, universities and one common feature was that they were not only very well organized, but also filled with enthusiastic voters.
According to Uzbekistan’s Central Election Commission (CEC), 90.21 percent of those who voted in Sunday’s referendum approved the new constitution. Turnout, the CEC said, exceeded 84 percent showing only the commitment of the population to the amendments to the constitution.