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In The Atmosphere Of Openness, Publicity And Inter-party Competition

It should be noted that strengthening the long-term strategic partnership with India is one of the priorities of Uzbekistan's foreign policy.

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President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Regular elections of the head of state were held in Uzbekistan. This was the sixth direct presidential election since the independence of the Republic. Unlike the previous ones, the current election campaign was conducted openly and transparently, based on the new electoral legislation. The elections were held in qualitatively new political, legal, socio-economic conditions that arose as a result of the adoption and dynamic implementation of the tasks of the Action Strategy, which marked the beginning of the construction of an absolutely new democratic, open to the outside world and competitive New Uzbekistan.

During the elections, observers from many countries of the world came to the country, in particular, from our friendly India. It is worth noting that the historical ties between India and the states of Central Asia, in particular Uzbekistan, have reached a new level. Indeed, both countries have been considered for many centuries to be a kind of gateway to European-Asian trade relations.

Since ancient times, Uzbekistan and India have been striving for scientific progress and peace, paying special attention to mutually beneficial cooperation between the two peoples. It is also known that our great ancestors created unique works about the history of the Indian people, and the art of the two peoples feed on the same sources of national culture and literature.

In particular, Abu Raikhan Beruni wrote the book "India", and Zakhiriddin Muhammad Babur in his work "Mukhtasar, or Risolai Aruz" ("Treatise on Aruz") quotes the poetic lines of Khisraw Dehlavi. Today, the leaders of the two countries have opened a new era in the historical relations of peoples who are close in spirituality, traditions and outlook on life.

During his first state visit to India in October 2018, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev presented the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi with an 8-volume collection of works by the great thinker Robindranath Tagore in Uzbek as a symbol of high respect for the Indian people. Scientific, educational, cultural closeness testifies to the fact that even today our peoples share the achievements of science of the East and the West. This, in turn, allows the development of joint trade relations and comprehensively strengthens the strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and India.

It should be noted that strengthening the long-term strategic partnership with India is one of the priorities of Uzbekistan's foreign policy.

In order to receive comments on the organization, conduct and course of this important political event not only in the country, but throughout the Central Asian region, we decided to meet with a specialist in the field of law. More about this in our interview with the professor of the Tashkent State Law University Omon Mukhamedzhanov, master of law  Umida Sherkhanova,as well as the 2nd year students of this higher educational institution Zamira Abdushukurova and Utkirbek Rivojiddinov.

Based on new electoral legislation 
 - Omon Zakirovich, five years ago Uzbekistan entered a new stage of its development. Over the past period, a large number of cardinal reforms have been implemented, covering all spheres of the socio-political and economic life of society. At the same time, among the most important directions in the country are democratic transformations aimed at ensuring human rights and freedoms, liberalizing social and political life, and freedom of the media. Do you think that the renewal of the national electoral legislation contributed to the conduct of elections at a new level?

- The Electoral Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted on June 25, 2019, on a fundamentally systematic basis, replaced five laws and dozens of bylaws that were previously in force in the field of elections. At the same time, it reflected electoral standards, as well as recommendations proposed by international observers in previous elections.
 
When preparing the draft code, firstly, national legislation and electoral practice were analyzed, and secondly, the best practices of more than 2Utkirbek 0 foreign countries (France, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Poland, Albania, Belarus, Azerbaijan, etc. .), thirdly, the recommendations of international organizations (OSCE / ODIHR, the Venice Commission, etc.) in the field of organizing and holding elections were taken into account.

Based on the parliamentary elections and election to local Kengashes held in 2019, law enforcement practice and recommendations of foreign observers, as well as laws adopted on February 8 and May 31, 2021, the Electoral Code and other legislative acts related to elections were improved.

Creation of new conditions, guarantees and modern electoral technologies 

- Speaking of the innovations in the Electoral Code, it should be noted that the provision is fixed regardless of whether or not the citizens of Uzbekistan living abroad, on the consular register, conditions have been created for their inclusion to the voter list, as well as voting from their place of living or working. This made possible to involve in the electoral process thousands of labor migrants who had not previously had the opportunity to take part in the elections. How did this process go? And what other innovations in the electoral legislation should be noted?

- Early voting took place from 14 to 20 October at all polling stations in the country upon the Art. 57 of the Electoral Code of Uzbekistan. 421 618 citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan took part in early voting at polling stations organized in the country and abroad. In particular, 301,094 of them voted in Uzbekistan, and 120,524 - abroad.

Another innovation was a significant simplification of the mechanism and procedures for observers to visit polling stations located in places of detention and imprisonment. As a result, the level of transparency in the process of exercising the electoral rights of prisoners and detainees has increased.

An increase in the social and legal protection of participants in the electoral process became the consolidation of the norms for the payment of wages and compensation to members of election commissions. Previously, they carried out their activities on a voluntary basis, which did not correspond to the principle of fairness of remuneration by the state to persons who devoted effort and time to the performance of their most important publicly significant function.

It should also be mentioned that the obligation previously imposed on election commissions to organize meetings of candidates with voters has been canceled. On the one hand, this significantly increased the independence of candidates and their headquarters in organizing work with the electorate, and on the other hand, it freed the commissions from functions unusual for them, the implementation of which diverted the forces and funds of the commissions.

An important innovation in this context was the legislative prohibition of any use of state resources during the election campaign, except for the financing of political parties. Whereas, a new mechanism has been created to ensure transparency in the use of allocated funds to political parties for election campaigning.

In addition, now, instead of obtaining permits for events such as meetings with voters, a notification procedure has been introduced, which has increased the freedom of parties to organize their election campaign. The procedure for consideration of complaints has been changed - in order to prevent the receipt of repeated complaints against the courts and election commissions, their adoption of conflicting decisions, the practice of considering complaints against actions and decisions of election commissions only by courts has been introduced.

Taking into account the current difficult situation due to the pandemic, the CEC carried out work to study international experience and introduced a number of positive norms into the national electoral process. The Electoral Management Information System (EMIS) was fully completed and introduced into the electoral process, and the Unified Electronic Voter List (UEVL) was updated. The functioning of this system upon the Electoral Code guarantees the implementation of unified voter registration and the principle “One voter - one vote”. At present, more than 21 million voters have been included in the UEVL. An electronic service “Find Your Site” has been established on the CEC portal. Special portal Sailov-2021, e-mail, Telegram-bot, operational messages in social networks Facebook and Instagram, an application for the members of election commission use.

Political parties of Uzbekistan: Elections and cross-party competition 
- Omon Zakirovich, the current election campaign is distinguished by a significant increase in inter-party competition. This was facilitated by the analysis of domestic and foreign law enforcement practice in the field of the electoral process, as well as innovations in the Electoral Code and other legislative acts related to elections. Please tell us about these changes.

- The Electoral Code has become more democratic and humane, electoral rights have been expanded, excessive bureaucracy has been eliminated, for voters and observers, more convenient conditions have been created for expressing their will, the role of parties and their responsibility are also increasing.

However, these achievements in Uzbekistan did not come overnight. This was preceded by the evolutionary development of our national legislation. Let's give an example for confirmation. If, in accordance with the legislation in the 1999 elections, the right to nominate candidates for deputies had political parties, representative authorities and citizens' self-government bodies, in the 2004 elections - political parties and initiative groups, then in 2009 and 2014 this right was granted only to political parties.

In these elections, on October 24, 2021, for the first time, 5 political parties entered the struggle for the presidency - the People's Democratic Party, the Movement of Entrepreneurs and Business People - the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, the Democratic Party "Milliy Tiklanish" ("National Revival"), the Socially - Democratic Party "Adolat" ("Justice") and the youngest Ecological Party of Uzbekistan.

-Can we talk about democratic changes in the activities of the country's political parties? 
-As you know, the process of democratic transformations is not one-time, it is constantly deepening as the country develops, as the political and legal culture rises, and the social and political activity of the population grows. And of course, all this is reflected in the development and activities of political parties in Uzbekistan. Namely - the program settings of political parties are being improved, the political spectrum of the country is changing and the electorate is naturally renewed.

So, if in the last presidential elections in 2016, the UzLiDeP party occupied the right center in the political spectrum of the country and relied on entrepreneurs, the emerging middle class, the business elite, including in the agricultural sector. Then in the elections of 2021 - UzLiDeP occupies a central position in the political spectrum of the country and is positioned as a centrist "popular party", "the party of the majority of citizens of Uzbekistan." The party relies on a majority of voters; at the same time, the core of support, in addition to entrepreneurs, is youth, state employees and workers of industrial and agricultural enterprises, artisans. If we continue the theme of the country's political spectrum as a result of the renovation, we note that to the left of the center (center-left) is the Ecological Party, then the Social Democratic Party Adolat and then the PDPU, a left-conservative party opposing accelerated modernization. The right flank is represented by the right-wing liberal party Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival).

- And what is the difference between the pre-election programs of the parties whose candidates participated in the elections? Were they given equal opportunities to realize their political potential during the election campaign?

- As for the electorate, the other four political parties have also decided on their electorate. So, if the PDPU relies on low-income strata of the population and the older generation 50+, on people in need of targeted social support, then the main electorate of the SDP "Adolat" are industrial workers and hired workers in the service sector. DP "Milliy Tiklanish" relies on the creative and scientific intelligentsia. The Ecological Party of Uzbekistan relies on citizens, environmental specialists, doctors, scientists, representatives of the education sector and various institutions of civil society.

During the election campaign, much attention was paid to media coverage of the activities of election commissions at all levels, as well as the pre-election programs of political parties and their candidates. For this, equal conditions have been created for parties' access to the media by providing them with the same airtime and print space.

Thus, during the election campaign, equal conditions and a healthy competitive environment were created for all political parties and candidates nominated by them. The process of preparing and holding the presidential elections, including the voting of voters, was monitored by thousands of representatives of political parties, citizens' self-government bodies and hundreds of international observers, journalists, including international ones. Thus, the CEC accredited a total of 971 international observers, including 631 international observers from 18 international organizations, as well as 340 international observers from 45 foreign countries.

Election outcomes 

- Omon Zakirovich, please tell us about the results of the elections. Can we talk about the growth of the political and legal consciousness of citizens, especially young people?

- According to the CEC data of October 29, 2021, the final turnout in the presidential elections on October 24 of this year, according to the final election results, 16,212,343 out of 20,158,907 included in the voter list took part in voting, which is 80.4% of the total number of voters.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev, nominated by the Movement of Entrepreneurs and Business People - the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, received 12,988,964 or 80.12% of the votes of the total number of voters who took part in the voting and won a landslide victory.

1,075,016 or 6.63% of voters voted for Maksuda Varisova from the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan.

The candidate from the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan "Milliy Tiklanish" Alisher Kadirov received 888,515 or 5.48% of the vote.

549 766 or 3.39% of voters voted for Bakhrom Abdukhalimov from the Social Democratic Party of Uzbekistan "Adolat", 670 641 or 4.14% of voters voted for Narzulla Oblomurodov from the Ecological Party.

From year to year, the demands and feelings of voters' involvement in the ongoing reforms in Uzbekistan are growing. It is gratifying to note that according to the CEC, in the current presidential elections, out of 21 million 249 thousand 921 voters included in the single electronic list, youth under 30 amounted to 6 million 993 thousand 924 people, that is almost 33% of voters. More than 880 thousand of them took part in the elections for the first time.

Thus, the citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan have become more demanding of the activities of not only political parties, but the entire electoral process. As a result, one can note, first of all, a noticeable increase in the political and legal consciousness of citizens. Secondly, in the current electoral process, the electoral platforms of political parties have become more diverse, they were focused on solving important problems in the life of society and the state. Thirdly, civil control over the observance of the principles of openness, publicity, fairness and equality during elections has been established.

Umida Sherkhanova, a teacher of the Department of International Law and Human Rights, a graduate of the OSCE Academy, Master of Laws, Umida Sherkhanova, also shared about how young people participate in the social and political life of Uzbekistan:

- Today, youth policy in Uzbekistan is one of the priority directions of state policy. It is based on the principles of universal involvement of young people in the formation of a rule-of-law state and a just civil society, the establishment of a recognized social status of young people, comprehensive support for their legal, social, political and ideological rights, and the development of various public associations and organizations.

I am also part of the youth of Uzbekistan, I am one of the young researchers in the legal field. Now young people have enough opportunities to prove themselves, learn languages, improve their skills in order to be a competitive specialist in the future. Taking advantage of these opportunities, I also diligently studied languages, participated in youth conferences and summits in our country and abroad. I had the opportunity to undergo an internship in international organizations on behalf of Uzbekistan. So in 2019, she trained at the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna (Austria) and spoke at conferences of these organizations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. Reforms aimed at supporting young people in all spheres, including science and research, have opened up many opportunities for achieving my goals. As a university teacher, I see that today many students have the ability to participate in international competitions, study in foreign universities as an exchange student and boldly compete with students from other countries.

I have previously taken part in other elections. But unlike the previous ones, the current election campaign was carried out on the basis of the new electoral legislation, openly and transparently and in inter-party competition, which was facilitated by the improvement of their program guidelines by the political parties. This testifies to the diversity of the country's political spectrum and, naturally, to the renewal of the electorate. Of course, I voted for the future of my country and the deepening of reforms and the youth strategy of New Uzbekistan. There is no doubt that the republic can be proud of its youth, devoted to the Motherland, with firm convictions and an active position. I can confidently note that the youth of Uzbekistan is the future of our country, it is they who will have to make vital decisions in the future.

-Speaking about the noticeable growth of the political and legal consciousness of young people, we decided to turn to the 2nd year student of the TSUL Zamira Abdushukurova for an opinion.

- Zamira, you participated in the presidential elections for the first time. Do you feel a sense of belonging to the fate of the Motherland? Tell us about your feelings at the time of voting.

- Of course. I have been waiting for this day for a long time, I remember from the day I received my passport, and imagined in my head how I would vote. During the first year of study, my groupmates and I carefully studied the Electoral Code for a long time, and naturally, this increased my desire to fulfill my civic duty.

- Do you think that your peers took an active part in the elections? 
- Yes, I believe that most of the people from my environment voted for the most worthy candidate. I can say with confidence, because the day after the elections - October 25, I often heard from my friends that they "went to vote yesterday" or "were at the elections." In addition, I observed how some of my acquaintances directly became volunteers in the pre-election campaigns and elections. Based on these cases, I can assume that young people took an active part not only in the elections themselves, but also in the process of organizing them.

- Would you like to vote online? 
- Did not think of it. Since there was no such alternative. Nevertheless, I suppose that if they had introduced online voting, it would have saved a lot of time for voters. However, I personally was pleased to participate directly in the elections. Therefore, I believe that if online voting is implemented, then as one of the alternatives, and not the only way.

During the conversation with Zamira Abdushukurova, the young lady also decided to share her impressions of the meeting with the State Minister of Foreign Affairs and Culture, Mrs. Menakshi Lekhi, which took place on the eve of the elections to the TSUL.

- Zamira, what exactly did you remember in this meeting? 
- In our country, it is rare to find a woman in a ministerial post, although they are. However, I have never had the opportunity to be at a lecture with such an erudite personality. Mrs. Menakshi's openness to cooperation in all directions makes it clear that we have before us a real diplomat and master of her craft. I was especially impressed by her intelligence and sincere philanthropy.

Impressed the lecture itself, where she mentioned several times about the basic principles of democracy and its construction. She also drew an analogy between our two countries, which allowed us to learn more about the southeastern democracy building in India.

After her persuasive speech, I felt the need to change a little, to become more sympathetic and understanding. Hence, it turns out, the best solutions to humanitarian problems come from, if you make an effort and understand the people and their needs.

The culture of India has instilled in all the people to thank and greet with a special gesture - namaste. While being in Uzbekistan, Mrs. Menakshi adhered to her traditions and thanked us that way. By this, she showed not only respect for the traditions of India, but also became an example for me that I should never forget about traditions and where I come from wherever I am.

We asked similar questions to a 2nd year student of this university Utkirbek Rivojiddinov:

- Utkirbek, did you participate in the elections for the first time? Do you feel a sense of belonging to the fate of the Motherland? 

- Yes, this year I took part in the presidential elections of my country for the first time and for the first time felt that at last my vote would also be taken into account. The fact is that since childhood, when my parents went to vote, I also wanted this. However, due to my age, I could not. I remember wondering why adults have the right and I don’t. Now that I have turned 20, I fully understand the importance of this question and no longer ask it, but exercise my rights. In addition, last year, when I was the first course at Tashkent State University of Law, we played a simulation of presidential elections in the Constitutional Law lesson. I acted as a presidential candidate from Ecoparty of Uzbekistan. I remember how hot our debates were. All candidates came up with their innovative ideas, and at that moment I realized that the president is not only a leader who controls other leaders, but the person who is entrusted with all the responsibility of the Republic. Therefore, I simply could not miss such a chance.

- Do you think that your peers took an active part in the elections? 
- I believe that my friends participated in these elections more than actively. October 24 was the birthday of our headman, who always helps and supports everyone. Since there is a custom in our group to celebrate all the birthdays of our classmates, we decided to arrange a big surprise for our group leader. We were going to meet in the morning, but almost everyone came late. Ask why? Elections. At a time when participation is our right and not an obligation, i.e. they simply could not go, our friends prioritized the presidential elections and took an active part. Moreover, all active Instagram users posted excerpts of their participation in the elections and called on everyone else. I have never seen anything like this!

- Would you like to vote online? 

- No. At a time when the incidence of cyber attacks around the world is only increasing every day, this is not an option at all. If senior officials don't want other countries to interfere in our elections, they'd better not think about online elections.

During the conversation, Utkirbek Rivojiddinov also recalled the meeting with the delegation of India:

- When they called us to the assembly hall and said that the Indian ambassador and the Indian foreign minister would come, I thought that we would listen to another lecture on democracy. However, when Meenakshi Lekhi began her talk, I immediately realized that the next hours of my life would be productive and prepared my notebook for notes. Ms Meenakshi Lekhi noted in her speech that the Constitution of India has been translated into many languages. The fact that the Uzbek language was recently included in these languages ??also raised my respect and gratitude to this country even more. Her historical and motivational speech will now long serve as a motivation for my desire to study international law and raise the status of my country on the world stage. I will always be grateful to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for her visit and warm words about my people and homeland. And I hope that soon, I will be honored to work with people like her in the field of international relations.

Summing up, it is worth mentioning that according to the Statement on the preliminary results and conclusions of the mission observers, the presidential elections were held against the backdrop of the ongoing implementation of the strategy of reforms in the social, economic and political spheres, initiated by the President of Uzbekistan, under the motto "New Uzbekistan".

It is recognized that in recent years Uzbekistan has made significant progress in the process of preparing and holding elections, has carried out serious reforms of the electoral legislation, which have contributed to the implementation of a number of OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.
 
The strengthening of guarantees for the unhindered conduct of election campaigns was especially welcomed, measures to exclude the facts of the use of administrative resources were positively assessed, and the strengthening of guarantees of legal protection of electoral rights was noted.

A high assessment was given to the activities of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Uzbekistan in the preparation and conduct of elections. It was emphasized that, despite the problems associated with COVID-19, the CEC organized its activities professionally, qualitatively and efficiently within the timeframes provided for by law.

For the first time, all CEC meetings were open to the general public and broadcast in real time, and its decisions were immediately published on the commission's website. This, as noted by international experts, contributed to the openness and transparency of the electoral process.

Measures to create an enabling environment for persons with disabilities were also positively assessed.

It is also worth noting that today Uzbekistan sees India as a reliable partner in the further development of trade relations and the strengthening of stability in the region. In turn, India seeks cooperation, noting the innovative approach and effective domestic and foreign policies of the leadership of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan, through the implementation of long-term and promising reforms, is the beginning of a new era in the development of the region. India, as a traditional partner and friendly country, actively supports these efforts.

Timur MAMAJANOV, journalist


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