UZBEKISTAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS 2014
By Aftab Kazi
Although Western media did not cover, but December 21, 2014 witnessed the 5th Parliamentary and City Councils elections (Oliy Majlis and Kengashs) were commended as competently conducted by more than 300 international observers from 50 countries and international organizations such as OSCE/ODIHR, SCO, OIC, Association of World Election bodies (AWEB) and CIS. Approximately 88.51 percent of the 18.4 million eligible voters from Uzbekistan’s nearly 31 million people exercised their right to vote at 9035 polling stations nationwide and 44 at the Uzbekistan diplomatic missions overseas. Central Election Commission (CEC) as an independent Constitutional body encouraged the candidates from regionally diverse parties to contest. Overseas based opposition parties, i.e. Erk, Birlik and Ozod Dekhqon failed to seek the required 30,000 public signatures under CEC rules (Article 2.3) to claim an electoral base did not contest. In 22 electoral districts, no candidate was able to secure minimally required number of votes leading to By-Elections on January 4, 2015. None of the political parties secured overwhelming majority. The Liberal Democratic Party won only 52 seats, the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan 36, the Peoples Democratic Party 27, with only 20 seats for the Social Democratic Party, indicating a possible compromise for a coalition government. Additionally, the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan gained 15 seats. Of the 150 elected members nearly 30 percent are women, while 20 members will be nominated for professional seats.
For the first time in the history of Uzbekistan, OSCE/ODIHR acknowledged the most effective electoral conduct. Criticism was limited to the lack of public debates and list of overseas voters. Debates in Uzbekistan’s Mahallah oriented sociopolitical culture often are held at the local pre-election level, hardly noticeable by observers However, all candidates were provided an equal time to represent their respective viewpoints on national television. CEC efforts were applauded by all international observers, which over the years have accumulated enormous experience in electoral management in consultation and debates with the OSCE missions. The significance of these exchanges was noteworthy enough in resolving the controversies in the aftermath of the Presidential Elections of December 2006 and, Parliamentary Elections of 2009 when OSCE/ODIHR refrained from issuing any official statement. Praise for the current Parliamentary Elections of 2014 thus positively reflects upon this gradually developed understanding.
The recently held elections are of utmost importance at least for four reasons. Firstly, that these will be followed by Presidential Elections on March 29, 2015, secondly, that President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan will be further decentralizing Presidential powers transferring to the Parliament and Prime Minister, thirdly that the gradual economic, political, and social reform in Uzbekistan complements the country’s economic growth constantly ranging between 7-8 percent of GDP increase, per IMF observations, and fourthly increasing number of voters by every election reflects voter enthusiasm.
The OSCE acknowledgement of an effective electoral conduct in fact, is the recognition of the Uzbek mode of economic and political transformation deriving from the gradual policy development processes that the Uzbek model advocates. Ever since the 2004 Parliamentary Elections and its bi-cameral restructuring gradually enacted constitutional reforms in consultation with several Western political scientists, Uzbekistan stands tall in terms of political development in terms of democracy and human rights that though Western media has often ignored and stereotyped. Currently some 2700 local civil society organizations are operating at all societal levels in Uzbekistan. No one in the West acknowledges that approximately one or two generations are needed before the newly introduced laws become norms in any given society.
Furthermore, timing of the Parliamentary Elections remains important in the context of the forthcoming Presidential Elections. Contrary to the world media speculations about the age and health of President Islam Karimov he is being nominated again to contest by the Liberal Democratic Party amid other candidates. He remains popular among his people and respected as Father of the nation.
Briefly, recent Uzbekistan Parliamentary Elections were effective and fair leading towards a mid-level understanding between OSCE mission, the Uzbek model and the political culture of Uzbekistan. Elections demonstrated that the people of Uzbekistan are interested in societal balance and stability and consummated national economic growth. Perceptual differences between the nature and notions of civil society will always remain, but unlike the past elections, this time a post-election controversy between CEC and OSCE has been avoided, which augurs well for the future relationships between Uzbekistan, EU and the world.
Professor Aftab Kazi is a non-resident senior fellow of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at SAIS in Washington DC. He is a constant observer of the constitutional developments and has observed three Parliamentary Elections and one Presidential Election in Uzbekistan.
Professor Aftab Kazi, PhD (Pittsburgh) (Unsung*Hero US Do-ED)
is a Senior Fellow, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at SAIS
Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC 20036 USA.
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