Uzbekistan

Last update: 8 months ago

Uzbekistan became an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, former communist President Islom Karimov ruled the country. His regime was characterised by a strong state and suppression of the opposition. On 2 September 2016, Karimov passed away at the age of 78, after suffering a stroke. This brought his 27 years of ruling to an abrupt end. Following his passing, early presidential elections were held on 4 December 2016. Previous vice Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev won these elections and is currently in power.

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Map of Uzbekistan

Short facts

Population:
31,299,500 (World Bank est.)
Governmental Type:
Republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch
Ruling Coalition:
One ruling party - Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (UzLiDeP)
Last Elections:
4 December 2016 (presidential elections)
Next Elections:
2019 (parliamentary elections)
Image of Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Shavkat Mirziyoyev

President

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Political Situation

Uzbekistan is a presidential republic in which the president is both head of state and head of government. Following a national referendum in 2002, the term of office for the president was changed from 5 to 7 years by constitutional amendments made in 2003, making the president even more powerful.

Before 2002, Uzbekistan had a unicameral parliament of 250 seats. The two-chamber system was introduced in 2002 after the 2002 referendum. In practice, the Uzbek parliament only meets a few times a year, which makes a real political debate and a critical attitude towards the government impossible. The president makes all decisions. Therefore, parliamentary elections are not that interesting for the Uzbek people, as their results will hardly affect the political situation. Uzbekistan has four official political parties. All are pro-government and support the president.

Opposition parties
Opposition parties are forbidden and denied registration, therefore they are unable to take part in elections. These unregistered opposition parties, or groups, predominantly function in exile. During the early nineties various opposition parties and individuals were arrested on charges of ‘anti-state activities’. In 2006 Sanjar Umarov, head of the Sunshine Uzbekistan opposition movement, was jailed for 11 years (later reduced to eight) for ‘economic crimes’. The group had criticised the Andijan crackdown in 2005 and urged economic reform. This was an example of President Karimov’s stance on oppositional forces.

Generally, oppositional organizations have had the goal of establishing democracy in Uzbekistan. Most do not have a clear program and none of them could be regarded as social democratic, however they can be considered as more progressive than the political parties that ran for parliament in the 2014/2015 parliamentary elections. Uzbekistan’s embattled and largely exiled opposition called for a boycott of this parliamentary vote, without success.

Elections

Parliamentary elections

On 21 December 2014, the first round of parliamentary elections were held in Uzbekistan. These were the fourth elections for the lower house of the country’s bicameral parliament. Of the 150 members of the Legislative Chamber, 135 were directly elected from single member constituencies using the two-round system. A further 15 seats were reserved for the country's Ecological Movement, which elected its members at a meeting on 21 December. The four political parties vying for the 135 seats - the Liberal Democratic Party, People's Democratic Party Of Uzbekistan, National Revival Party "Milly Tiklanish" and the Social Democratic “Adolat” (Justice) Party - all supportive of then president Islom Karimov’s government. 

The official total amount of voters was 18,49 million out of 20,78 million people eligible to vote, which makes 88.94 percent of the total population. After the first round deputies were elected in 113 districts out of the 135 electoral districts. In 22 districts, however, none of the candidates managed to garner an overall majority of 50 percent of the votes, and so a second round of voting was held on 4 January 2015. 

After the second round of elections on 4 January 2015, the remaining 22 deputies were elected in their respective districts. According to official results, out of the 135 electable seats, the Liberal Democratic Party won 52, the National Revival Party "Milly Tiklanish" won 36, the People’s Democratic Party won 26 and the Social Democratic “Adolat” (Justice) Party won 20. The turnout for the second round was 76,93 percent. Among the 150 elected deputies, 24, or 16 percent are women.

Election results

Party Seats 1st round  Seats 2nd round  Total seats 
 Liberal Democratic Party  47   5   52 
 People's Democratic Party  21  6  27
 National Revival Party  28  8  36
 Justice Social Democratic Party  17  3  20
Total 113 22  135


OSCE conclusions
The elections were monitored by the OSCE in a limited mission. In a statement on 22 December 2014, the head of the limited observation mission, Daan Everts, sent by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said Uzbekistan's parliamentary elections lacked real competition. The elections themselves were competently administered but lacked genuine electoral competition and debate. In order to solve this problem Everts stated that “more comprehensive steps” are needed. According to the mission leader freedom of expression and association are crucial in order to properly conduct free and fair elections.

The mission’s most important conclusions were:

  • The 2014 parliamentary elections were competently administered but lacked genuine electoral competition and debate. The four contesting parties, all supportive of and supported by the government, are complementary rather than competitive.
  • Recent legislative amendments, in combination with minor administrative improvements and the nomination of younger candidates by all political parties, were presented as steps towards strengthening the role of parliament and creating a more competitive political environment. They did not, however, address main concerns with regard to fundamental freedoms that are critical for elections to fully meet international commitments and standards.
  • The campaign was tepid and the media, impeded by serious restrictions, did not facilitate a genuine and critical discussion on electoral issues.
  • Voting and counting were generally conducted in an efficient and transparent manner. However, the practice of proxy voting on behalf of several voters appeared to be universally practiced and tolerated by everyone present in violation of the principle of equality of the vote.

The mission's full report can be found here.


Presidential elections

On 4 December 2016, Uzbekistan held early presidential elections after long time ruler Islam Karimov suddenly passed away on 2 September 2016. Karimov had dominated Uzbekistan for 27 years. He rose up through the communist party ranks (Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party) to head of Soviet Uzbekistan in 1989. After it gained independence from Moscow in 1991 he remained in power. Already before the new elections it was highly expected that the prime minister and interim president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, would be elected as the new president. The four parties selected nominees to run for the presidency. Mirziyoyev represented the Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party, Nariman Umarov represented the Justice Social Democratic Party, Sarvar Otamurato represented the National Revival Democratic party and Khatamjon Ketmonov represented the People’s Democratic Party.

Election results

Candidate Party  Votes  %
 Shavkat Mirziyoyev   Liberal Democratic Party   15.906.724   88,61 %
 Khatamjon Ketmonov   People's Democratic Party   669.187   3,73 %
 Narimon Umarov   Justice Social Democratic Party   619.972   3,46 % 
 Sarvar Otamuradov   Uzbekistan National Revival Democratic Party   421.055   2,35 % 
Total    17.951.667  100 % 


Election observers
The OSCE observer mission concluded that election day was assessed negatively. In 12 percent of the observations, voting was assessed negatively with observers noting serious irregularities inconsistent with national legislation and OSCE commitments, including proxy voting and indications of ballot box stuffing. The legal framework is not conducive to holding democratic elections. It was stated that the dominant position of state actors, and limits on fundamental freedoms undermine political pluralism and led to a campaign without genuine competition. Voters did not get an alternative viewpoint because media coverage was highly restrictive and controlled. Access to national and international websites with critique or analysis of the elections were blocked. On a more positive side, the election administration did undertake measures to improve transparency, and it efficiently prepared for the election. National minorities were not ignored as they had full political rights. Moreover, campaign material was also available in three minority languages.

Representation of women
Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, women were under-represented in elected and executive office. Of the 16 CEC members, only 2 are women. Several state-supported public associations, including the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, actively encouraged voter turnout. Several contestants reached out to women voters in their speeches and women were generally well-represented in the audience at the 31 campaign events observed by the OSCE.

Political parties

Social Democratic Parties

Liberal Democratic Party (UzLiDeP)

Party Leader: Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Number of seats: 52

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Other Parties

People's Democratic Party (HDP)

Party Leader: Khatamjon Ketmonov

Number of seats: 27

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Justice Social Democratic Party

Party Leader: Narimon Umarov

Number of seats: 20

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Uzbekistan National Revival Democratic Party (DPU)

Party Leader: Sarvar Otamuradov

Number of seats: 36

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Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan

Party Leader: Boriy Alikhanov

Number of seats: 15

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Biographies

Image of Islom Karimov

Islom Karimov

Former president

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Image of Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Shavkat Mirziyoyev

President

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Image of Muhammad Salih

Muhammad Salih

Opposition leader

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Sources