In the “My Constitution” Referendum, the Uzbek People Said “YES”: “Reforms Take Time; But There Is No Time To Lose”

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The referendum, which provided for the updating of 65 percent of the Constitution in Uzbekistan on April 30, 2023, was adopted with 90.21 percent as a result of the vote in which 84.54 percent of the people participated. Thus, the emphasis on the “secular and social state” has been included in the Constitution of Uzbekistan, the infrastructure of the free market order has been strengthened to promise the Uzbek people a prosperous future, the democratization process has been accelerated through the transfer of the powers of the President to the Parliament, and important rights from intellectual property to inclusive education have been guaranteed. With this Constitutional referendum, the “Social Contract” has been renewed and further strengthened. Therefore, the country, which is experiencing the “Third Renaissance” period under the leadership of President Shevket Mirziyoyev, has crossed an important threshold in the process of building a “New Uzbekistan”.

The country’s Central Election Commission announced that the New Constitution entered into force on May 1, 2023 with the finalization of the referendum results. From now on, the New Uzbekistan, in accordance with its New Constitution, will come to the fore with the following characteristics.

  • Strong social protection and populist reforms will become an important focus of public policy.
  • Uzbekistan is defined as a state governed by the rule of law, and human rights and freedoms are constitutionally guaranteed.
  • Uzbekistan has been described as a social state.
  • The right and opportunity to receive education have been expanded, teachers have been granted constitutional status, and the right of citizens to study with scholarships at higher education institutions has been constitutionally guaranteed.
  • The creation of social, economic, legal and other conditions for the full development of the family by the state is constitutionally strengthened.
  • Everyone is guaranteed the right to receive a fair wage for their work, without any discrimination and not less than the minimum wage.
  • The death penalty is prohibited at the constitutional level, and it has been emphasized that even the state does not have the right to deprive a person of his life.
  • The right of everyone legally located on the territory of Uzbekistan to move freely within the country, to stay and to freely choose their place of residence has been strengthened.
  • It is guaranteed that the state will create the necessary conditions for citizens to use the Internet network.
  • The protection of youth rights and the promotion of active participation of young people in society and state life are guaranteed.
  • The protection of competitive national economy, private entrepreneurship and property rights is guaranteed by the constitution.
  • Strengthening of an effective, holistic and human-friendly state administration and parliamentarism will be ensured for the people to live in prosperity and the stable development of the state. In this context, the powers of the Legislative Assembly and the Senate have been significantly expanded.
  • The guarantees regarding the activities of lawyers have been strengthened, and a separate section has been included in the Constitution on the guarantees regarding the institution of lawyers and the activities of lawyers.
  • A great constitutional opportunity and strong protection have been provided for the media and journalists to be more active.
  • For the first time, a separate section on non-governmental organizations has been established in the Constitution, and guarantees regarding the activities of NGOs have been established.

Considering the public interest in the referendum, it can be stated that the reforms implemented by Mr. Mirziyoyev within the framework of the “New Uzbekistan” vision after he became President in 2016 and the goals set out in the “2022-2026 Development Strategy”, which constitute the first stage in this context, have been accepted by the Uzbek people. With its interest in the referendum, the people of Uzbekistan have shown that they have internalized the slogan “My Constitution-My State” with a strong democratic consciousness, trust the system and the ballot box, prefer a stable development, and therefore their choice is in favor of political stability and a strong future. With this referendum, the Uzbek people said “yes” to the Constitutional revision, which forms the basis of the “New Uzbekistan Vision” and strengthens the unity of the nation-state.

As it is known, Uzbekistan has built the referendum process on the discourse of the “People’s Constitution” and in this context, the draft Constitution has been prepared taking into account the views of the people. The fact that the public has made 222,715 suggestions to the website established on the subject is also an important indicator of the success in this process and the participation of the public in political processes. As a matter of fact, in accordance with the above-mentioned proposals, a draft was created that increased the Constitutional articles from 128 to 155 and the norms from 275 to 434, and this draft was submitted for public approval.

The strong approval given by the people of Uzbekistan to the process of building a “New Uzbekistan” through a referendum is actually a concrete result of the most democratic operation of this process in such a way as to strengthen state-nation unity. The state has managed to get down to the people with this step, which can be described as a first at the point of democratization. As a matter of fact, for the first time in the history of the country, a Constitutional amendment has been submitted for public approval. Of course, this situation can be interpreted as the success of Mr. Mirziyoyev, the leader of the “Third Renaissance” and the “New Uzbekistan Movement”, which centered on man.

As it can be understood, on the occasion of the referendum dated April 30, 2023, Uzbekistan has set a good example in terms of the expression “a state that integrates with the people on the way to democratization”. For this reason, it can be argued that the referendum was a turning point in terms of strengthening the “center-periphery” relations.

Undoubtedly, the democratization process is also of critical importance in terms of opening up and integrating the Uzbek people and Uzbekistan to the world. In this sense, the referendum is a harbinger of Uzbekistan’s position as a strong and respected state in the process of building a new world order. Accordingly, it can be predicted that Uzbekistan will come to the fore as an example of a strong democracy and, in this context, it will turn into a strong economic model in which the free market order functions in a healthy way. This will bring about the transformation of Uzbekistan, which has become a stable and reliable country in the eyes of investors, into a center of attraction.

Therefore, the spirit of the 2017-2022 Action Strategy and the 2022-2026 Development Strategy, which constitute the initial steps of the “New Uzbekistan” vision in many areas from agriculture to industry, textiles to tourism, and the goal of building a prosperous society and a strong state, have been launched with the approval of the people. Now there is a new process in question. It is of great importance that the reforms are implemented decisively and successfully. Expectations and attention on a national and international basis will undoubtedly be at this point. Therefore, a new process has been entered into in which the reform steps will be implemented carefully, decisively and successfully.

As a result, Mr. Mirziyoyev said, “Reforms take time, but there is no time to lose.” in line with his motto, it can be foreseen that it will continue to act with an approach that considers human capital as the most important resource and therefore puts people at the center. At this point, it can be argued that the construction of a social state and the democratization environment supported by a strong parliament will strengthen state-nation unity and put center-periphery relations on a healthy footing. This is very important because it indicates that the Uzbek people will move forward with confident steps towards their lofty goals.

Original article was published in Türkiye Gazetesi on 04.05.2023.