Speech by Dr Gulnoza Ismailova on the Upcoming Presidential Elections in Uzbekistan
Remarks Delivered by Dr Gulnoza Ismailova, Vice-Rector for Science and Innovation at the University of World Economic and Diplomacy, at the Press Club in Brussels on September 2, 2021.
Uzbekistan is a country with rich history and dynamically developing present, with its priority to move towards an open democratic society. Human and civil rights and freedoms where the voice of every citizen is heard are the priorities for a democratic society. A democratic society exists when power is formed legitimately through universal suffrage and free elections. Democratic society and democracy are more often exercised as a political and social phenomenon; its legal foundations are enshrined in normative legal acts.
The preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan affirming its commitment to the ideals of democracy and social justice. Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan states: The people are the sole source of state power. This norm reflects the essence of building statehood in the Republic of Uzbekistan. The people and their will are the core of democracy.
Recognizing the priority of the generally accepted norms of international law Uzbekistan has implemented international standards into its legislation. The Constitution of our country has implemented this provision, reflecting in Article 32: «All citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall have the right to participate in the management and administration of public and state affairs, both directly and through representation. They may exercise this right by way of self-government, referendums and democratic formation of state bodies, as well as development and improvement of public control over activities of state bodies».
In modern democracies, elections are the foundation of the principle of democracy, it is the main form of expression of the will of citizens and a form of realization of popular sovereignty. Participation in elections makes it possible to exercise the right to participate in the management of the affairs of society and the state, as well as to control the formation and activities of bodies of both representative and executive power. Paragraph 6 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document establishes that the will of the people, freely and fairly expressed through periodic and genuine elections, is the basis of the authority and legitimacy of the government. The participating States will accordingly respect the right of their citizens to take part in the governing of their country, either directly or through representatives freely chosen by them through fair electoral processes. Article 117 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan guarantees the right to vote, equality, and freedom of expression.
On the verge of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan, looking back, we can note its bright breakthrough in the field of transparency and openness over the past five years. Uzbekistan has acquired a new image in the international arena. By the 2019 elections held under the slogan "New Uzbekistan – New elections" is real evidence for that.
First of all, it should be noted that the elections-2019 were of historical importance, which testified to the irreversibility of the path of adopted reforms. For the first time, the elections were held under the guidance of the Electoral Code, adopted on June 25, 2019, which regulates relations related to the preparation and conduct of elections and establishes guarantees that ensure the free expression of the will of citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The adoption of the Electoral Code served to unify 5 laws and many regulatory documents. The Electoral Code has been fully brought into line with international standards.
Secondly, the 2019 elections were held in the context of strengthening democratic principles in the life of society, openness and transparency, significant liberalization of the socio-political environment, and the increased role and status of the media. The principle of transparency and openness is one of the fundamental principles of elections. This principle is enshrined in many international agreements and documents. Its main features are the promulgation of decisions related to the conduct of elections, the obligation of the electoral body (election commission) to publish its decisions on the results of the elections, as well as the ability to carry out public and international observation of the elections.
Following the statistics, about 60,000 observers of political parties, more than 10,000 observers of citizens' self-government bodies (Mahalla), 1,155 representatives of local and foreign media took part in the monitoring process. In addition, along with local observers, first-time accreditation was granted to a full-fledged OSCE / ODIHR observer mission, and a total of 825 international observers were registered.
For an objective assessment, we may refer for an example to the Final Report presented by the OSCE / ODIHR Mission, which says that the elections were held against the backdrop of improved legislation and increased tolerance for independent opinions. The report assessed the work of the CEC of the Republic of Uzbekistan positively, saying it "made great efforts for better preparation for the parliamentary elections." It is amazing to see the results of the work done.
In the year of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of state independence, our country continues cardinal transformations aimed at creating a New Uzbekistan, where human rights, freedoms, and legitimate interests are of the highest value. Among the most important directions in the country are democratic transformations aimed at liberalizing social and political life, and freedom of the media.
These days, preparatory work is in full swing for an important political event – the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. All processes are conducted openly, transparently, and based on the national electoral legislation and the time frames specified therein. The time for electoral action is both political and legal time. The following changes and additions have been made to the Electoral Code recently this year:
Primarily, this year, for the first time, presidential elections will be held on the first Sunday of the third decade of October, under the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan introduced by the law dated by February 8 this year. This major political campaign was launched on July 23 this year.
Second, a procedure for the inclusion in the voter list of the citizens of Uzbekistan who live abroad has been introduced. They can vote regardless they are registered in the consular register of diplomatic missions or not, and a legal basis for voters abroad when using portable ballot boxes at the place of residence or work has been created. This practice was first implemented in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Third, this election campaign operates and is formed on the principles based on publicity; for the first time, an estimate of expenses for the preparation and conduct of elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan was openly presented. The exact procedure for paying wages and compensation to members of election commissions, calculating their salaries has been established. To ensure transparency in the use of funds allocated for pre-election campaigning in accordance with the Law on the Financing of Political Parties, a procedure is being introduced for announcing an interim report and a final financial report after the elections, as well as announcing the results of an audit of parties' activities by the Accounting Chamber.
Fourth, to prevent the receipt of repeated complaints against the election commissions, and their adoption of conflicting decisions, the practice has been introduced that only courts consider complaints about the actions and decisions of election commissions.
In 2019, during the elections, the Electoral Management Information System (EMIS) and the Unified Electronic Voter List (EECI) were successfully introduced into the national electoral system. The regulation of this system based on the Electoral Code guarantees the implementation of unified voter registration and the principle “One voter – one vote”. To date, more than 21 million voters have been included in the EESI.
The organization of presidential elections in New Uzbekistan is a logical continuation of the ongoing large-scale democratic reforms in the country. And they will become a vivid confirmation of the implementation of the tasks defined in the Action Strategy for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The participation of representatives of international organizations and foreign observers in holding the presidential elections is important as the campaign is based on democratic principles of openness and publicity. In recent years, their number and participation have significantly increased in Uzbekistan, compared to previous elections.
Thousands of representatives of political parties, citizens' self-government bodies and hundreds of international observers, journalists, including international ones, will observe the process of preparation and conduct of the presidential elections, including the voting of voters.
In May, experts from the Needs Assessment Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) visited Uzbekistan, who positively assessed the pre-election situation and the process of preparing for the elections, the measures taken to ensure the holding of free and democratic elections in the country. As a result, they expressed an opinion on sending a full-fledged mission to observe the presidential elections.
I believe that these elections are of historical importance, which will testify the irreversibility of the path of adopted reforms, which aimed at strengthening our democracy.