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Uzbekistan’s Election Code – Tested for the Second Time

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The Republic of Uzbekistan held its presidential elections on October 24, 2021 based on the principle of periodic elections in line with the Constitution and international election standards.

First of all, this is another practical confirmation of New Uzbekistan’s commitment to the universally recognized principles of international democratic elections and socio-political and economic stability in the country.

The presidential elections were held in a high spirit, in full compliance with national electoral legislation following international criteria and standards and democratic principles such as justice, openness, transparency and liberty.

Elections are a clear proof of bold democratic reforms being implemented steadily and quickly in our country, of the realization and effectiveness of tasks set in the Action Strategy in the five priority areas of the development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021.

The Central Election Commission and lower-level election bodies, in cooperation with relevant state and public organizations, have carried out extensive work to prepare for the Presidential election and conduct it at a high democratic level.

In a highly competitive environment between five political parties and their candidates, the recent elections have become a shining example of strengthening freedom and democracy in Uzbekistan.

The continuous development and improvement of electoral legislation and practice is a process inherent to a free democratic state. It is important to consider the requirements of international election standards and the optimal recommendations of election observation missions of international organizations.

In 2019, five laws, as well as about thirty legal acts, ceased to have effect in connection with the Adoption of the Election Code, which is in line with the comprehensive, thorough, and most advanced democratic principles and where human rights, including the suffrage of citizens, have found their bright expression. Dozens of new norms and rules not present in the national election rules of Uzbekistan took place in the Election Code, and some existing procedures were abolished.

It should be noted that the recommendations of the OSCE ODIHR in the development and adoption of the draft Election Code and relevant conclusions and opinions were obtained from authoritative international organizations such as the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

The Election Code has been successfully tested in a very important process, such as the Presidential election. Earlier, in 2019, elections to the country’s parliament and local councils were held for the first time under the Code.

Significant changes have been made in the national electoral system of New Uzbekistan, which is boldly and steadily moving towards the establishment of a democratic state governed by the rule of law, aimed at ensuring the broad and full suffrage of citizens.

In this process, the practice and experience of previous presidential elections in Uzbekistan and recommendations and suggestions given in the final reports of international observer missions that participated in them were studied and analyzed in detail. As a result, two laws were passed in 2021. In the development of these draft laws, special attention was paid to three sources – national electoral legislation and practice, the experience of more than twenty foreign countries in conducting elections, as well as international norms and standards related to elections.

According to the amendments and additions to the electoral legislation in 2021, the rights and guarantees of voters, political parties, election commissions, the media and observers have been significantly expanded. The electoral process management system has been further improved by introducing modern information technologies.  

To effectively implement the innovations in the electoral legislation, a number of decisions of the Central Election Commission on the organization and conduct of elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan were adopted. New regulations and guidelines were approved.

As a result of the adoption of this legislation, the national electoral legislation has been further improved based on universally recognized international electoral standards. As a result:

Firstly, through the consistent implementation of the updated electoral legislation, raising the electoral culture of election commissions and the population, further improving the system of work of political parties with their electorate, and increasing the political activity of parties were achieved;

Secondly, the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan on October 24, 2021, was organized and held at a high level following the updated national electoral legislation, which fully meets the generally accepted international electoral standards;

Thirdly, a more open and transparent electoral process increased the chances of improving Uzbekistan’s performance in the World Democracy Index.

The introduction of new national election standards has created equal and broad opportunities for political parties and presidential candidates during the election campaign, especially during the pre-election canvassing. October 24 was an important factor in citizens’ active and free voting in the elections. In the presidential election, more than 16 million or 80.4% of voters freely expressed their will and voted – a unique event in the history of elections in countries worldwide in the difficult conditions caused by the pandemic.

At the same time, this voter turnout was proof that this year’s move to change the election day from a snowy and cold December to a moderate October following the amendments to the national electoral legislation was correct. The same can be said about other new national standards in electoral law.

The presidential election was observed and covered by about 1,000 international observers from about twenty international organizations, fifty foreign countries, and 1,672 local and foreign media representatives.

Such large-scale participation of international observers and the media is a record figure in the history of all elections in Uzbekistan!

In addition, about 64.5 thousand representatives from five political parties and citizens’ self-government bodies who participated directly observed the elections.

The Final Report of the ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) on the Presidential Elections of the Republic of Uzbekistan, held on October 24, 2021, highlighted the positive aspects of the election campaign and the measures taken in Uzbekistan to further improve the electoral process following OSCE recommendations.

It should be noted that Uzbekistan’s cooperation with the ODIHR in the election process is strengthening. The Office’s Mission has been participating in Uzbekistan’s presidential and parliamentary elections since 1999. It, in turn, contributes to the fair, honest and transparent conduct of elections in Uzbekistan based on the commitments made by our country in the field of elections, universally recognized principles and best practices.

As a result of practical cooperation, special attention is paid to the wider and fuller provision of citizens’ suffrage through further democratization of the national electoral system, harmonization of electoral legislation and practice with generally accepted democratic election standards.

It is evidenced by many indicators like the codification of the laws and regulations in the field of elections into a single Election Code and the introduction of information and communication technologies in the electoral process.

Thus, the assessment of all elections by the ODIHR Election Observation Mission and other international and foreign experts, noting the success of the previous election campaigns and the organization and conduct of elections in our country, showed a significant effect on the formation and development of the national democratic electoral system in Uzbekistan.

It was especially evident in the 2021 election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

For the first time, an influential long-term delegation of the OSCE, consisting of 365 observers from 44 countries, took part in the observation of the presidential election in Uzbekistan. 

The ODIHR Election Observation Mission has been monitoring the Presidential Elections since September 15 2021. The mission included into its main group 17 people, 28 long-term observers who have been watching all regions of the country since September 24, as well as 204 short-term observers from 28 OSCE participating States who monitored the voting and counting process on election day.

On election day, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and, for the first time, Delegations from the European Parliament joined and formed International Election Observation Mission (IEOM).

For the first time, the election of the President of Uzbekistan was observed by a delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, consisting of 100 parliamentarians from 27 countries, as well as a delegation comprised of the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Margareta Sederfelt and the Secretary-General Roberto Montella. Observers consisting of 13 members of the European Parliament also observed the presidential election.

These facts testify that the OSCE / ODIHR recognizes and actively supports the path of democratic reforms in Uzbekistan, which has been consistently implemented in recent years within the framework of the Action Strategy.

In the final report, it has been acknowledged that the elections were held through a process of reform strategy in the social and economic, political and legal spheres under the motto “New Uzbekistan”.

In recent years, Uzbekistan has made significant progress in the preparation and conduct of elections and achieved radical reforms in electoral legislation by implementing the proposed recommendations from OSCE / ODIHR.

They expressed satisfaction with the strengthening of guarantees for the smooth conduct of the election campaign, praised the measures taken to exclude the use of administrative resources, and noted the strengthening of guarantees of the legal protection of suffrage.

In the final report, the work of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the preparation and conduct of the presidential election was highly praised: “The preparations for the elections were carried out with great efficiency and great organization,” the report said. It was noted that despite the problems with COVID-19, the CEC had organized its activities at a high organizational level, quality, and within the deadlines set by law.

The open and transparent conduct of the election campaign was highly rated. For the first time, all meetings of the Central Election Commission were open to the general public, broadcast online, the decisions of the Central Election Commission were immediately published on the Commission’s website, and live video conferences with district election commissions were held regularly.

Measures to create favorable conditions for people with disabilities were also praised in the elections. “According to the law, all polling stations must be open to voters with disabilities, and the CEC has installed ramps and voting booths adapted for wheelchairs; special stencils and magnifying glasses for Braille ballot papers were provided in all polling stations to expand further and facilitate voting opportunities for people with various disabilities”.

It is noted that persons with disabilities’ enjoyment of election campaign activities was widely provided. In such meetings, sign language was used, including through video communication.

“The Central Election Commission was able to organize a comprehensive and inclusive information campaign long before election day, also in the languages of ethnic minorities. A number of new rules have been introduced to expand facilities created for people with disabilities,” the Final Report said.

The mass media monitoring conducted by ODIHR EOM revealed that the campaign for active voting in the elections was conducted in nine languages. All election materials, including election legislation and CEC resolutions, were published in Uzbek, Russian, and Karakalpak and distributed online in Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Turkmen languages. The voting process on election day was peaceful and orderly. The CEC periodically informed the public about the interim results of how citizens voted throughout the day.

10,761 polling stations were set up in the country to hold elections. The IEOM monitored voting in 1,267 polling stations. Some negative aspects of the voting process were noted only in 139 (11%) polling stations visited by mission members.

It should be noted that during the presidential election campaign, the Press Centre of the Central Election Commission and its regional branches, the International Media Centre in Tashkent, created a wide media space for all participants in the election process. Hundreds of press conferences, briefings, interviews, seminars, and meetings were held. All this depends on the openness and transparency of the electoral process, and the work of electoral bodies in ensuring objectivity became important.

More than 76,000 foreign and domestic media materials were announced during the election campaign.

The missions of international organizations, foreign observers, and hundreds of foreign journalists, who have been following the presidential election process with great interest, have acknowledged the significant changes that have taken place in a short period in our country’s electoral legislation and practice.

According to them, modern and sustainable national election standards and systems have been created to conduct free democratic elections according to the principle of impartiality in New Uzbekistan.

Consistent, systematic and wide-ranging implementation of the tasks set out in the main event program adopted by the Central Election Commission on April 14, 2021, the preparation and conduct of elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan served in conducting the election based on the election law, in particular, the Election Code at a high organizational level.

To strengthen the knowledge and skills of candidates for members of precinct election commissions, more than 142,000 election organizers improved their skills in the training workshops organized based on multi-stage “cascade” technology.

Organization of training of operators of the electoral process management information system for about 33,000 members (operators) of election commissions allowed to provide the “one voter – one vote” principle.

In a real competitive environment Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a candidate from the Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen – Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, won the election with a majority of 80.12% of the vote and was elected President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The Election Code was successfully tested for the second time.

The future strategy of New Uzbekistan, recognized as one of the most peaceful, stable and fast-growing democracies in the world, and supported by the people, is clear: to further increase the volume of investments, create new jobs, constantly improve the welfare of the population, strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation with all countries.

Zayniddin NIZAMXODJAYEV
Özbekistan Cumhuriyeti Merkez Seçim Komisyonu Başkanı