June 4, 2014
Bedrock of Democracy..
An international panel discussion entitled ‘The electoral legislation of Uzbekistan and international standards for democratic elections’ has taken place in Tashkent.

Building a democratic state and a just civil society is impossible without the electoral process, said the organizers of the panel discussion – Chairman of Uzbekistan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) Mirza-Ulughbek Abdusalomov, OSCE Project Coordinator Gyorgy Szabo, and Rector of the Academy of Public Administration Abdujabbor Abduvahitov at the opening ceremony of the roundtable. On the one hand, the elections are an important institution of modern democracy, the expression of people’s will, a key way of their participation in state administration, and on the other hand, a way of building representative authorities. The principles of freedom of choice and expression, especially the constitutional right of every citizen of Uzbekistan to elect and be elected to representative bodies of government, lay the foundation of the Uzbek model of statehood.

As it was noted at the panel discussion, the electoral legislation of Uzbekistan has passed a phased evolution. The Constitution enshrines the fundamental human rights and freedoms, the principles of democracy, appointment of representative bodies at all levels by election, ensures political and social pluralism, the priority of human rights, as well as the universally recognized norms of international law.

The electoral legislation was thoroughly streamlined as Uzbekistan was experiencing the process of holding democratic elections. What are its main directions?

First of all, it is a consistent extension of citizens’ voting rights and strengthening of the role of political parties in the formation of representative bodies. Second, this is the creation of a unified independent system of election commissions ranging from the polling stations to CEC, with its specific regulatory authority. Third, the electoral legislation ensures transparency and openness of elections, as well as a guarantee of equal rights for all candidates.

The current stage of development of the electoral system is closely linked with the processes of further deepening of democratic reforms and building of the civil society in the country. For instance, the increasing role of political parties in the work of the parliament, and their extended powers in the electoral process brought about the related amendments in 2008. In this context, the role of the bicameral parliament and local representative authorities in the process of democratic renewal and modernization of society has significantly strengthened and increased.

The involvement of civil society institutes in elections has considerably increased. With an eye to the relevance of environmental issues, the struggle for improvement of the environment and human health, which is a matter of concern of all strata of the society regardless of their political views, members of the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan were provided with 15 seats in the parliament.

Offered by the leader of Uzbekistan and approved by the parliament in 2010, the ‘Concept of intensifying democratic reforms and forming the civil society in the country’ has marked a new stage in the process of reformation and democratization of the country, and further streamlining of state and public construction, including the electoral law.

For instance, the electoral legislation stipulates the concept of ‘electioneering’, specifies forms and ways of its implementation. A ban on campaigning not only on the election day, but the day before the vote is also an important guarantee of free expression of the voters in the voting process.

Summing up the international forum, the participants emphasized that the electoral system Uzbekistan has built over the years of independence meets the highest democratic standards. Reforms in the electoral legislation are interlinked with the ongoing democratic reforms in the society, and with the policy of liberalization of social and state building.

At the panel discussion foreign and local experts deliberated on the international norms and standards of electoral law and their implementation in national legislation in order to ensure free expression of voters and build a perfect electoral system in line with the highest democratic principles.

The basic principles of electoral law were based on the related UN documents that enshrine fundamental human rights and freedoms. It stipulates the right to elect and be elected to government bodies, the frequency, obligation, fairness, authenticity and freedom of the elections as conducted on the basis of universal and equal suffrage by secret ballot, which ensures the freedom of expression.

Reporters and speakers noted that the Constitution of Uzbekistan enshrines fundamental human rights and freedoms, the principles of democracy, as well as appointment of representative bodies at all levels. In particular, it reflects the fundamental provisions of Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that everyone has the right to take part in governing his country directly or through the freely chosen representatives.

The regulations that guarantee the participation of political parties in the formation of representative authorities had a positive impact on the dynamics of the development of civil society, multiplicity of parties, pluralism in society, and enhanced the electoral capacity of the population.

Uzbekistan’s election system has become an important factor in enhancing the socio-political activity of women and their role in state and public construction. Uzbekistan recognizes the importance of equality of human rights, which is a prerequisite for full participation of women in all spheres of social and political life.

Thus, the national electoral legislation includes international electoral standards. The legal framework is streamlined to ensure the progressive liberalization of the national electoral system which would provide free and democratic elections in full accordance with the law. The legal guarantees of implementation of the constitutional rights of citizens for participation in elections prove the high democracy of the national electoral system, as stated by foreign during the forum.

Elections are the vital political event in any democratic nation as they determine the state’s strategy for the future, noted the participants of the panel discussion. Shaping of public authorities through the election is one of the main indicators of democracy of the constitutional system in the country. Therefore, Uzbekistan assigns a special part to the free will of people as the basic requirement of democracy.

In Uzbekistan, the preparation and conduct of elections, security and protection of electoral rights and freedoms of citizens, as well as their monitoring, are entrusted to independent electoral commissions that operate within the competence settled by the Constitution and laws. The world practice has several types of organization of the elections, including those conducted by the government.

Uzbekistan has chosen the strategy of creation of a permanent independent body - the Central Election Commission, which provides preparation and conduct of elections to representative bodies, as based on international election standards.

As an independent body, the Central Election Commission has been functioning since 1998 to be the main moderator of elections, as well as the guarantor of the voting rights of citizens. The CEC is authorized to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections and referendums on the most important issues of public life.

Under the ‘Concept of intensifying democratic reforms and forming the civil society in the country’ the electoral legislation was amended to ensure the better implementation of the principle of freedom of choice, and the further democratization of the electoral system.

This year’s law on introducing amendments and addenda to certain articles of the Constitution promotes the further advancement of Uzbekistan towards the level of developed democratic countries. Thus, the amendments have conditioned the further improvement of the electoral system.

The amendments to Article 98 of the Constitution introduced a new procedure of nomination of the Prime Minister by a political party with the largest number of seats in the elections to the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis, or several political parties with an equal highest number of seats in the lower house of parliament.

It is worth noting that amendments and addenda to Article 117 of the Basic Law have provided the constitutional settlement of the important issues like the procedure of democratic formation of an independent body - the Central Election Commission, its key features and principles, the election of members of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of Oliy Majlis. The further democratization of the electoral system under the constitutional reform is relevant in anticipation of the upcoming elections to the bicameral parliament and local representative bodies in December. In this regard, the Central Election Commission is entrusted with the organization and conduct of national elections in full compliance with national legislation and international principles.

The CEC has launched the preparatory works for the forthcoming elections much in advance. In April 2013, it held a national seminar in Tashkent, and regional seminars involving representatives of political parties, territorial election commissions, the media, other organizers and participants of the elections, where they comprehensively and thoroughly analyzed the experience of past elections, and scheduled major directions and objectives for the future.

The Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan approved the Program for the Preparation and Conduct of Elections to Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Regional, District and Municipal Councils of People’s Representatives in 2014.

The program envisages strengthening of the organizational and legal aspects of the interaction of the CEC and territorial election commissions with government and public bodies, enhancing the personal responsibility of all the organizers and all election subjects for strict compliance with the requirements of the electoral legislation, ensuring the rule of law, guarantees of electoral rights of citizens.

The CEC assigns a special part to ensuring publicity and openness of the entire process of preparations and conduct of elections basing on the activities of public and private media, online media, modern information and communication technologies, and a diversity of methods of timely and prompt reporting.

At the same time, it is to provide openness and transparency of operation of all election commissions, arrange their meetings with representatives of political parties, the media, observers, and ensure the public control over the election organizers. Besides, it is envisaged that the elections of 2014 will be held with involvement of observers of foreign countries and international organizations.

The CEC intends to carry out all organizational and preparatory works, leveraging the close cooperation with national and international partners.

As known, the CEC is a full member of the World Association of electoral bodies, it works together with electoral commissions of CIS countries, Germany, India, South Korea, Malaysia, as well as international organizations: UNDP, OSCE/ODIHR, SCO, CIS Executive Committee.

Uzbekistan intends to widely inform the world community about democratic reforms in electoral legislation, the national practice of preparation and conduct of elections and guaranteeing citizens’ voting rights. The forthcoming event is no exception.

The important changes in the outlook and thinking of the people, their attitude to life, to the results of their labor, and the significantly increased level of political and social activity of the people is the crucial factor that features the 2014 elections.

The meeting included many interesting reports, speeches and discussions on the electoral law and the election. The leaders of the political parties and the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan elaborated on the features of the current parliamentary elections. Foreign experts spoke about the experience of their countries in the development of the electoral legislation, the use of ICT during the electioneering, and involvement of public and private media.

The participants of the international forum have agreed that the domestic electoral legislation reflects the present-day life of the Uzbek society, people’s traditions, and provides all citizens, political parties and other civil society institutions with the opportunity to participate in governance of the state and the society.

In conclusion of the discussion the panelists approved the guidelines on further streamlining of electoral practices.

Responsible and substantial preparations

Gyorgy Szabo, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan:

Election is the bedrock of democracy, it is a free expression of the people. Uzbekistan, is getting preparing for the upcoming parliamentary elections very responsibly and thoroughly, the Central Election Commission is working very actively. In the course of democratic renewal the country has built a dynamic political system, the bicameral parliament, and provided all the conditions for citizens and political parties to actively participate of in elections. I have no doubt that the upcoming elections will be held in compliance with democratic norms and international election standards.

Strong legislative framework

Juan Gutierrez Alonso, Professor of the University of Granada, Spain:

It is important that the state built its legal framework in line with international democratic requirements while streamlining its electoral legislation. It is a long process. For example, the related legislation in Spain has been improved for over 40 years.

The changes in the legislation of Uzbekistan will promote the further development of the electoral system and its full compliance with international standards. In general, the electoral system is designed to ensure the democratic formation of representative bodies and the parliament. The amendments in your Constitution are aimed at enhancing their role in the system of governance. This way Uzbekistan has built a strong legal framework that guarantees constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to be elected.

An effective national model

Li Yu, Deputy Director, Institute of Sociology, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences:

The reforms in state and social construction in your country are based on the principles of a national model that has proven its effectiveness. In my opinion, it is very important that Uzbekistan does not just build the strong legal basis for holding elections, but streamlines its electoral system based on the experience it has gained, enriching it with the best practices of democratic states in the world. I think this is a wise strategy, because it envisages phased reforms that allow for building a strong state with a rule of law and a stable democracy.

Congratulations to CEC

Alexander Shlyk, OSCE/ODIHR expert:

Today I was involved in an interesting discussion of the electoral legislation in Uzbekistan and the process of its implementation. The Constitution stipulates not only the electoral system, but the way the elections should be held. In this regard, I would like to congratulate the CEC with obtaining the status of a constitutional body. This is really important; it emphasizes the importance the lawmakers and the president attach to elections in the context of the general development of the country. At the same time, this essential step imposes a serious responsibility on the CEC. In this regard, the amendments on the independence, legitimacy, collegiality, transparency and justice of the CEC, which have been introduced in the Constitution, are also very important.

A platform for the exchange of views

Gulnoza Ismailova, Associate Professor of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan:

The discussion was fruitful. It served as a platform for national and international experts to exchange views and experiences in the field of electoral law. They have extensively analyzed our experience in building and developing the legal framework of free and democratic elections, noting that the streamlining of electoral legislation and electoral practices has been carried out sequentially based on the international standards.

The presentations and discussions suggest that the ongoing consistent democratic transformations are a practical result of the strategically correct ‘Uzbek model’ of building a democratic state and a strong civil society.

An interesting example for Korea

Mi Sung-ok, Representative of the Association of World Election Bodies, Republic of Korea:

The subject of the panel discussion is relevant to many countries, including Korea, since we have much in common in the system of electoral law, and law enforcement practice. Development and streamlining of electoral legislation in Uzbekistan is a positive experience, which we are interested in. Amendments to the Constitution and legislation will ensure the democracy of the entire electoral process in your country.

(Source: “Uzbekistan Today” newspaper)


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