Reform and modernization in Uzbekistan
By Vitali Fen
It is my pleasure to address to the esteemed readers of The Korea Times on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the Constitution Day of Uzbekistan which is marked on Dec. 8.
At the joint session of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis (parliament) of Uzbekistan on Nov. 12 in Tashkent, President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov presented a report titled “The Concept of the further deepening of the democratic reforms and the formation of the civil society in the country.”
The head of the state put forward a number of legislative initiatives, aimed at development and strengthening of the branches of the state authority in solving the most important state tasks, increasing the role of political parties, improvement of the judicial and legal system, election legislation, development of the civil society institutes and mass media, as well as deepening democratic market reforms and liberalization of the economy.
He said that Uzbekistan after gaining its independence in 1991, having denied the obsolete totalitarian, administrative-command and planning-distributive system had chosen its own “Uzbek model” of development.
The essence and substance of the model, which was elaborated and is being put into practice today, are as follows: radical changing and renewal of the state and constitutional order; implementing political, economic and social reforms based on such principles as de-ideologization of economy and its priority over politics, giving the state the role of a major reformer. We consciously rejected the revolutionary option of reforms by the methods of “shock therapy” in favor of evolutionary and phased development.
While undertaking this, it was of a matter of principle to proceed from the fundamental provisions and norms of the Main Law ― the Constitution adopted in December 1992, which defined the main principles of democratic development and establishing the civil society in the country.
This work has acquired its highest intensity, scale and purposefulness during the last decade ― from 2001 to 2010. In this regard adoption in 2003 of constitutional laws on the “Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan” and on the “Senate of Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan” had a special significance in terms of development of national parliament and clearly defined the status, powers and mechanisms of activity of separate chambers and the new parliament as a whole.
The exclusion in 2007 of the norms from the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan which stipulated that the President of the country was simultaneously the head of executive power became one of the political and legal acts of enormous importance of that period.
The objective assessment of the path we have passed and accumulated experience, and the analysis of achievements secured during the past years of independence convincingly prove that we have chosen the right model of evolutionary, step-by-step and gradual development of the country, and the need to follow up with this path.
Proceeding from this, we deem it necessary to take the following measures as the most important priorities of further deepening the democratic reforms, said President Karimov. He proposed some crucial amendments to the Article 98 of the Constitution aimed at introduction of a new procedure of nomination and approval of the Prime Minister, which meets democratic principles, and gives the Oliy Majlis the right to pass a non-confidence vote on the Prime Minister.
The right of the President to make decisions on the issues related to the competence of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan shall also be eliminated.
The next amendment proposed by the President is related to the Article 96 of the Constitution. A new wording is as follows: “If the functioning President of the country is not able to exercise his duties, his duties and authorities shall be temporarily entrusted to the Chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis, with holding the elections of the President of the country within three months in full accordance with the Law on the “elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.”
He pointed out that the establishment of constitutional order when the candidature of the Prime Minister nominated by a political party, which wins the elections, is submitted for consideration and approval of the Parliament; introduction of the institute of non-confidence vote on the government and other consequent measures which have to be implemented in the course of modernization of political system, in fact stand as a new stage in reforming and democratization of the country.
The amendments to the elections’ law of 2008 became an important stage in developing the electoral system too. With increasing the number of seats from 120 to 150, of which 135 deputies are elected from political parties, 15 seats in the Legislative Chamber are allocated to the deputies from the ecological movement of Uzbekistan due to the importance and growing urgency of the environmental issues.
The law envisages also some norms that ensure further liberalization of the electoral process. Among them six months’ term provided for registration of political parties needed for them to participate in the elections, which was reduced from six to four months. Also the number of signatures of voters necessary to provide political parties an access to take part in the elections was reduced from 50,000 to 40,000 citizens etc.
In conclusion, I would like to express a confidence that the concept of further deepening the democratic reforms and establishing the civil society in the country proposed by the President Islam Karimov will become a concrete and long-term action program in order to continue the process of reforms and modernization of Uzbekistan that we started almost 20 years ago.
Vitali Fen is ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan to Korea and dean of Diplomatic Corps in Seoul.