Effect of a Pragmatic Approach – Current Electoral System of Uzbekistan  

Photo: Anadolu Agency

Zayniddin NIZAMXODJAYEV
Chairman of the Central Election Commission
of the Republic of Uzbekistan

An important political event was held in 2021 the life of Uzbekistan – the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The elections were held in full compliance with the national electoral legislation, following the universally recognized principles and international standards, which enshrine the constitutional and legal foundations for free and fair elections conducted based on universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot openly and transparently.

It, first of all, is another convincing confirmation of the commitment of New Uzbekistan to the universally recognized principles of international democratic elections and socio-political and economic stability in our country.

Analysis of popular participation in elections

Once again, the presidential elections demonstrated the steady growth of political thinking, public activity, and our people’s electoral culture.

All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan who have an active electoral right on polling day are subject to inclusion in the voters’ list.

The Unified Electronic List of Voters (UELV) is a state information resource that includes citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan who have reached the age of 18 (including on the day of the election), have a permanent or temporary residence permit, and are not held in prisons under a court sentence for committed, serious and especially serious crimes.

The voters’ home visits were carried out to form the UELV in February-May 2021. During the work carried out, a total of 21.9 million citizens and about 7 million real estate objects were studied. 1.49 million apartments were digitized out of almost 7 million not digitized in the cadastre database during the inventory process. Unnamed streets are assigned a name and entered into the register.

From September 17 to October 19, 2021, through the Electoral Management Information System (EMIS), the data on voters distributed from district election commissions to precinct election commissions were clarified.

As a result of updating the voters’ list, 19,859,127 citizens were included in the voters’ lists at polling stations established in the territory of Uzbekistan, and 299,780 citizens – in diplomatic missions and institutions in the domains of foreign States.

Work to amend the voter lists following the requirements of the Electoral Code was completed 5 days before the election, that is, on October 19, 2021.

The total number of voters on the voter list was 20,158,907.

Careful preparation of 10,761 polling stations, including 37 polling stations formed in 54 foreign states, following the procedure established by law, played an important role in conducting the voting process following international electoral standards.

Thanks to a wide range of campaigning activities carried out by election commissions, as well as the favourable conditions and opportunities created, 421,618 people participated in the early voting in the elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, including 301,094 voters in the territory of Uzbekistan and 120,524 voters in foreign countries.

On October 24, 2021, precinct election commissions established in the country and at diplomatic and other missions of the Republic of Uzbekistan abroad for the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan hourly entered information about voters who participated in the elections to the EMIS. These data were summarized and published in Uzbek, Russian, and English on a large screen in the CEC Press Centre and on social media pages.

A unique event in the history of elections in countries of the world in the current difficult situation caused by the pandemic is that more than 16 million or 80.4 percent of voters voted freely in the presidential elections.

According to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a candidate who receives more than 50 percent of voters who participated in voting is considered President.

The Movement of Entrepreneurs and Business People candidate – Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev won a confident victory, having received the largest number of votes – 80.12 percent and was elected President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

International Experts on the Electoral Legislation of Uzbekistan

The international observation of the elections involved representatives of various countries and institutions: the organizers of the elections, parliamentarians and the expert community.

The CEC was accredited with a total of 971 international observers, including 631 international observers from 18  international organizations, such as the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of the Independent States and the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and others, as well as 340 international observers from 45 foreign countries. 

Leaders and coordinators of international observer missions praised the preparation and conduct of the elections.

In particular, summing up the results of the international observation of the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, according to the general opinion of the participants of the press conferences, the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan was held within the framework of national legislation and international standards of electoral rights, in compliance with democratic norms.

According to the head of the CIS election mission, the CIS Executive Secretary, S. Lebedev, the elections were held in full compliance with the requirements of the Constitution and the Electoral Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, were competitive, free, open and transparent, and met the universally recognized principles of democratic elections. A distinctive feature of the elections in Uzbekistan remains the absence of black PR and a sleaze war, which advantageously distinguishes the electoral process in the country from the elections in Western countries.

The head of the SCO observer mission, Deputy Secretary-General of the SCO Y. Ashimov, stressed that the election of the President of Uzbekistan met the requirements of national legislation and international obligations and was free, legitimate, and democratic. Violations questioning the vote results at these elections aren’t revealed. He also noted the improvement of the electoral process through the introduction of modern communication and information technologies.

According to the head of the Observer Mission of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking states (CCTS, Turkic Council), O. Kojaman, the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan was held openly, transparently, and following the national legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as international standards, norms, and requirements. Congratulating Uzbekistan and the Uzbek people on the successful elections, he stressed that the election results would contribute to the further development of the country, well-being, and the establishment of stronger ties in the Turkic world.

During the joint press conference of the missions of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Parliament, 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”.

The same conclusion is drawn in the Final Report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission dated April 22, 2022.

It is also recognized that in recent years Uzbekistan has made significant progress in the preparation and conduct of elections and in the fundamental reform of electoral legislation, which has contributed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

Observers from the expert community also confirm this. In particular, the international observer – Director of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia Venta Kocere, noted: “As an international observer, I am also pleased that the electoral legislation of the Republic has been improved. Now it meets the highest international standards in this area.”

Incorporation of Recommendations of International Organizations on Electoral Legislation into the National Legislation

Progressive development and improvement of electoral legislation and practice is a process characteristic of a free democratic state.

In our country, targeted work is carried out to effectively use the necessary opportunities to implement the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR on the results of monitoring the elections held in the country. It, in turn, contributes to the democratic development of Uzbekistan by introducing relevant international standards and best practices in the field of elections.

In his message to the Oliy Majlis on December 29, 2020, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, dwelling on the upcoming presidential elections in 2021, instructed the Central Election Commission to pay special attention to organizing the upcoming elections at a high level based on national legislation and generally recognized international democratic principles.

In his address, the head of our state indicated the need to continue work on implementing acceptable recommendations of international observers in the last elections into the national legislation and practice.

In this regard, the CEC, together with the ministries, departments, and organizations involved, has taken some organizational and practical measures to analyze the recommendations of the Final Report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) at the 2019 parliamentary elections, to summarize them on time, as well as to apply them in the electoral legislation and practice of Uzbekistan, as well as to ensure the implementation of acceptable recommendations in national legislation.

As a result, two important laws have been enacted since the beginning of 2021 to bring national electoral legislation closer to international electoral standards, implement the Mission’s Final Report’s recommendations, and improve electoral legislation.

First of all, on 08.02.2021, the law “On amendments and additions to some legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan in connection with the improvement of electoral legislation” was adopted.

Following this law, amendments and additions were made to:

In particular, now:

Firstly, the presidential elections, elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis and Jokargy Kenes Karakalpakstan, representative bodies of state power of regions, districts, and cities are held respectively in the year of the expiration of the constitutional term of their powers – on the first Sunday of the third decade of October (earlier – December);

Secondly, the funds allocated to finance the participation of political parties in the elections should be spent on:

  • campaigning;
  • organization of work of proxies of candidates and other assets involved in campaigning;
  • general party events for the election campaign.

Also, now the political party has to provide the interim and final reports on the state funds allocated to it to finance elections participation. Reports of the political party are published on its official website and in print;

Thirdly, electoral precincts for the election of the President, deputies of the Legislative Chamber and deputies of oblast and Tashkent city Kengashi are formed by district electoral commissions on the proposal of khokimiyats of districts and towns, and for the election of deputies of district and city Kengashes – by district and city electoral commissions.

Also, citizens in foreign countries can get acquainted with the data concerning them from the list of voters through the official websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic and other missions of Uzbekistan.

Fourthly, the deadline for the cessation of amendments to the voter lists has been increased from 3 to 5 days before the election.

The law also made other amendments and additions to the Electoral Code.

The next law is the Law “On amendments and additions to the Election Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, signed on May 31, 2021. It should be noted that the adoption of this law was also based on the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission to improve our country’s electoral system and legislation.

The law provides amendments to 11 articles of the Election Code:

1) the jurisdiction of higher election commissions is excluded from consideration of appeals against actions and decisions of lower election commissions, and their consideration is established only by the court;

2) it is provided that the district election commission for the election of the President of Uzbekistan consists of a chairperson, a deputy chairperson, a secretary, and 11-18 members of the commission;

3) the rule on the indication of the position (type of occupation) of a candidate, his/her place of work in the ballot paper is excluded;

4) it provides that citizens may prove their identity by signing an identification card, not only with a passport, in support of a political party or an electoral candidate;

5) it has been established that public events such as meetings with voters do not require prior permission and at least three days before they are held, the khokimiyats of the district (city) must be notified in writing of the place and time of their holding, while permission to hold such mass events is not required.

At the same time, it is worth noting the adoption of a number of legislative acts directly related to implementing the recommendations contained in the Final Report.

Among them, the adoption of:

the Law “On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” on October 15, 2020, which entered into force in January 2021;

On December 25, 2020, the Law “On amendments and additions to the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Code of Administrative Responsibility of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, which amended the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Code of Administrative Responsibility, providing for the liberalization of criminal punishment for insults and defamation (abolition of penalty in the form of deprivation of liberty);

Law On Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on June 7, 2021 (New York, December 13, 2006).

The development by the CEC of many legal acts (including the new version) on the preparation and conduct of presidential elections was also important for the proper implementation of the ODIHR Ministry of Internal Affairs recommendations. These Regulations, Instructions, and Concepts consider the implementation of a number of recommendations of the Final Report.

Thus, of the 32 recommendations of the Final Report on the results of observation of the 2019 parliamentary elections, 21 recommendations (3 – partially) were fully accepted, and 8 are under consideration.

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