Uzbekistan’s post referendum scenario: An expert opinion
THE Republic of Uzbekistan has once again taken the decisive “lead” in introducing “pure” and “genuine” reforms of further “politicization” and “democratization” in the Central Asia Region. The successful holding and approval of the referendum held on April 30, 2023 has opened a new chapter and concept of “interactive” and “integrative” “People’s Democracy” and “People’s Friendly” constitution in the country and beyond. Thus people’s supremacy has been established with “clear-cut” majority vote of 90.21% as a result of the referendum in which 84.54% of the people participated. Therefore noble political science concept of “Political Populism” has been reinforced.
Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev after the meeting with members of parliament decided to hold early presidential election in the country on July 9, 2023. It is indeed a bold political step which will further enhance spirit of “political diversity”, “democratic norms” and “rule of law” in Uzbekistan. Actually, it has successfully “blasted” the false, fake, fictional and fabricated western propaganda about the referendum by labeling it president’s centric. In accordance with the incumbent President’s “voluntary decision” of holding of snap presidential elections, the Uzbek Central Election Commission announced the start of the presidential election campaign in the country. For easy and smooth electioneering it planned to create constituencies by May 15 and polling stations by May 25. Single electronic lists of voters will be compiled.
In this regard, all political parties will need to apply to the EEC with an application within three days from the date of the announcement of the election campaign to register their authorized representatives. To participate in the elections, parties must submit documents by May 15. The nomination of candidates will take place from 17 May to 01 June. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights interim report has once again tried to “malign” the results of Uzbek referendum by intentionally terming it lack of genuine political pluralism and competition. It is completely “irrelevant” and out of the context because referendum was approved by the “majority vote” of 84.54 percent which vividly reflected “real populism” along with free will and political freedom of the voters. Thus OSCE high claims of absence of any populism and competition do not have any substance.
Moreover, the OSCE findings that the referendum lacked open debate on some contentious issues having no organized opposition to amendments and no alternative political views, respect of fundamental freedoms and provide opportunities for an independent civil society to develop. It is totally “one sided” observation which has nothing to do with the reality. In fact, adoption of referendum was a “lengthy”, “interactive”, “integrated” and “coordinated” process in which the general public made 222,715 suggestions vividly reflected “massive participation” of the public in political processes. A draft was created that increased the constitutional articles from 128 to 155 and the norms from 275 to 434, and the draft was submitted for public approval and subsequently remained under consideration for many months. More than two-thirds of the Constitution has been redrafted and ultimately promulgated.
According to OSCE interim report the referendum lacked the rules covering campaigning, campaign finance, impartial information for voters, the involvement by public authorities in the campaign, and the need for balanced media coverage. It is again not “true” and “factually incorrect”. There has been systematic mechanism to check all the SOPs at every stage of the electioneering especially with reference to financial support. The Chief Election Commission and its entire organization remained “impartial”, “honest” and “accessible” to all the public and other stakeholders and successfully conducted a “fair”, “free” and “transparent” referendum in the country. The CEC maintained utmost “constructive neutrality” and preserved true spirits of checks & balances and separation of powers doctrine during the referendum.
The OSCE is “absolutely unfair” to hold that proposed changes in the Constitution was a single package which meant that voters did not have the opportunity to make a choice on each separate issue. It was indeed a “holistic” and “comprehensive” constitutional package comprising all aspects of politicization and democratization, protection and provision of basic human rights and basic necessities of life, social and secularism, rule of the law, good governance, overhauling in the parliamentary democracy converting into people’s democracy, responsive state and last but not the least, socio-economic prosperity. The OSCE crossed all limits of “partiality” by pinpointing cases of so-called ballot box stuffing undermining the integrity of the proceedings as a whole. There was not such a “single” incident was reported by any international observer or media journalist however, the so-called “crystal ball” of the OSCE tried to create fake virtual reality and thus ultimately “compromised” its own “repute” and “electoral judgment”.
Last but not the least, the OSCE interim report upheld that blurring distinction between party and state did not stand for real competition. It has been a “massive national drive” to introduce new amendments in the constitution in which general masses, NGOs, civil society, political parties, experts, scholars, media and representatives of parliament “rigorously” participated and resultantly it was approved by the majority vote on 30 April 2023. To conclude, the Republic of Uzbekistan has become “pioneer” of real political transformation, “stimulator” of socio-economic prosperity and “gearing machine” of achieving the desired goals of people’s democracy and series of structural reforms in the country and beyond.
Real process of further politicization and democratization has been promulgated in the “New Constitution of Uzbekistan”. The provision and protection of basic human rights and necessities of life has been “guaranteed” in the referendum. The new concept of “Society, System and State” has been approved and become the part and parcel of the new constitution which is indeed a good omen. The “secular and social state” doctrine has been included in the Constitution of Uzbekistan. Furthermore, the doctrine of the “free market system” has been further strengthened leading the Uzbek people towards a “prosperous” future and “qualitative” life. The transfer of the powers of the President to the Parliament has been institutionalized and thus established a “New Uzbekistan” in term of governance, social responsibility, social justice and political diversity in the country.
Obviously, New Uzbekistan has established a “New Social Contract” in the country which will create numerous socio-economic and political dividends in the days to come. It seems that Uzbekistan has successfully started its “Third Renaissance” under the visionary leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Undoubtedly, the referendum has created New Uzbekistan in which “New Public Policy” comprising of the rule of law, human rights and freedoms has been constitutionally guaranteed. Social reform, social development, social justice, social diversity, and social harmony has become one of the “strategic priorities” of New Uzbekistan which will be further strengthened after the holding of early presidential elections on 09 July 2023. Interestingly education, health and the full development of the family by the state is constitutionally strengthened.
—The writer is Executive Director, Centre for South Asia & International Studies, Islamabad, regional expert China, BRI & CPEC & senior analyst, world affairs, Pakistan Observer.
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