Uzbekistan is a republic with a strong presidential system in which the executive branch exercises wide authority relative to the parliament (Oliy Majlis). The parliament comprises two chambers–an indirectly elected 100-member Senate and a lower chamber with 150 members. The members of the lower chamber are elected from single-mandate majoritarian districts.
If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a second round between the two leading candidates will be held. The elections will be held under a substantially revised legal framework. The Election Code, adopted in February 2019, unifies five different laws.
It addresses certain previous ODIHR recommendations, including the removal of provisions for reserved seats in the parliament previously filled through an indirect election, removal of undue restrictions on voting rights based on on-going criminal proceedings or a conviction, introduction of a maximum permissible deviation in the size of electoral districts, revision of candidate support signature requirements and allowing voters to sign in support of more than one prospective electoral contestant.
However, the Election Code does not address a number of long-standing recommendations, many of which pertain to restrictions on or absence of guarantees of fundamental freedoms. The parliamentary elections have been administered by a three-tiered election administration, including the CEC, 150 District Election Commissions (DECs), and over 9,000 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs). The CEC has planned an extensive cascade training for all DEC and PEC members throughout the country and a comprehensive voter awareness campaign on various aspects of the electoral process.
The parliament comprises two chambers–an indirectly elected 100-member Senate and a lower chamber with 150 members
Most Offices for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights NAM interlocutors acknowledged that proxy voting on behalf of several voters was still practiced throughout the country, especially in rural areas, and welcomed the efforts to tackle this phenomenon. Special measures were planned to facilitate independent participation and further protection of the electoral rights of voters with disabilities. Voter registration is passive.
For the first time, the voter lists had compiled based on the Single Electronic Voter Register, which was extracted from the Information System on Electoral Process Management, based on a compilation of information from various government authorities. The ODIHR NAM interlocutors expressed confidence that the SEVR became fully operational for the upcoming elections, although some noted concerns that it may not be sufficiently accurate due to the shortage of time, the complexity of the interaction of the various bodies involved in the process and the large volume of information to be processed.
Candidates can only be put forward by registered political parties. Independent candidacies are not provided for by the law, despite a previous ODIHR recommendation. Positively, the new Election Code permits a voter to sign in support of more than one political party seeking to contest an election, in line with international good practice and a previous ODIHR recommendation.
The election campaign commenced upon completion of candidate registration and ends one day prior to the election. The law contains provisions focused on ensuring equal campaign opportunities for all contestants, including in terms of holding meetings and access to the media. Political parties informed the ODIHR NAM that they expect the campaign to be vibrant with candidates using a combination of campaign strategies, including the use of social media.
All election-related expenses are funded by the state. The amount of state funding allocated to a political party depends on its number of registered candidates. The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, while the Election Code and relevant CEC regulations govern the media’s conduct throughout the electoral period. The media are held accountable for the trustworthiness of the disseminated information and defamation remains criminalized.
Online sources are increasingly used as a source of political information and strive to challenge the traditional approaches to covering domestic events. Access to multiple internet-based media had been recently restored after more than ten years of intermittent blocking. The legal framework requires equal allocation of time and space among the candidates within the media.
All interlocutors met with during the ODIHR NAM underscored the need for an ODIHR election observation activity for the parliamentary elections noting that an external assessment would be of added value. Representatives of official bodies emphasized that the electoral process would be transparent and that any recommendations for potential improvement of the process would be welcome.
Political parties informed the ODIHR NAM that they expect the campaign to be vibrant with candidates using a combination of campaign strategies, including the use of social media
In considering an observation activity, the ODIHR NAM has taken into account the various findings outlined in this report. Specific aspects that could benefit from review include the implementation of a substantially revised legal framework, the work of election administration at all levels, including the on-going efforts of the authorities to prevent proxy voting and the conduct of election day procedures, the new system of voter registration, and the environment and conduct of the electoral campaign, including media coverage.
On this basis, and despite outstanding issues with regard to the respect of fundamental freedoms, the ODIHR NAM recommends the deployment of an election observation mission for the 2019 parliamentary elections. In addition to a core team of experts, ODIHR will request the secondment by OSCE participating States of 30 long-term observers to follow the election process countrywide, as well as 250 short-term observers to follow election day procedures. In line with ODIHR’s standard methodology, the EOM would include a media monitoring element.
Background and political context
Uzbekistan is a republic with a strong presidential system in which the executive branch exercises wide authority relative to the parliament. Since Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected president of Uzbekistan in December 2016, the country is experiencing a new pace of ambitious reforms targeting the country’s economy and the governance system.
ODIHR NAM interlocutors underscored, in particular, the abolishment of currency controls, visa liberalization for foreigners, rapprochement with neighboring countries, the release of a number of political prisoners and the reforms of the law-enforcement bodies as some of the most tangible results of the reforms implemented in the country.
Electoral system & legal framework
The parliament (Oliy Majlis) comprises two chambers – a 100-member Senate and a lower chamber with 150 members, both with five-year terms. The composition of the Senate is based on territorial representation, with 6 members indirectly elected from each of the 12 regions, city of Tashkent and the Republic of Karakalpakstan, and 16 senators appointed by the president.
The members of the lower chamber are elected from single-mandate majoritarian districts. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a second-round between the two leading candidates will be held in two weeks. There is no minimum voter turnout requirement for the elections to be valid. Elections to the local and regional councils will be held concurrently with the parliamentary ones.
The legal framework for parliamentary elections comprise the Constitution, adopted in 1993 and last amended in September 2014, and a new Election Code, adopted in 2019 following a previous ODIHR recommendation. The legal framework for elections also includes the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Financing of Political Parties, relevant provisions of the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences, and regulations of the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The Election Code unifies five different laws, which regulated the conduct of presidential, parliamentary and local elections, outlined guarantees of citizens’ suffrage rights and established the framework for activities of the CEC. As part of a follow-up process to ODIHR’s electoral recommendations, the authorities requested an opinion of the ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), which together provided extensive comments and recommendations on the draft text.4
The Election Code addresses certain previous ODIHR and Venice Commission recommendations, including the removal of provisions for reserved seats in the lower chamber of the parliament previously filled through indirect election, removal of undue restrictions on voting rights based on on-going criminal proceedings or a conviction, introduction of a maximum permissible deviation in the size of electoral districts, revision of candidate support signature requirements and allowing voters to sign in support of more than one prospective electoral contestant.
Representatives of official bodies emphasized that the electoral process would be transparent and that any recommendations for potential improvement of the process would be welcome
All election-related expenses were funded by the state. The amount of state funding allocated to a political party depends on its number of registered candidates. For these elections, this amount is expected to be set at UZS 10mln (an equivalent of some EUR 1,000)per candidate. Private funding specifically to parties or candidates for campaigning is prohibited; however, funds may be donated to the CEC which is required to spend them during election campaign or to disturb them equally among contestants. Donations from foreigners and foreign entities are prohibited.
The provision of financial payments or gifts to voters during campaign events is not permitted. The electoral system of UZBEKISTAN is near to the electoral system of Pakistan to some extent, However, ground reality is that the electoral laws of UZBEKISTAN is better to Pakistan in order to eliminate the family politics. First past the post system is negation to the spirit of democracy and Pakistan electoral system was taken from the British parliament.
Kanwar Dilshad, former Secretary to the Election Commission of Pakistan, worked in the constitutional institution for over 30 years. He is currently the chairperson for the National Democratic Foundation; the foundation’s work is to grow and strengthen democracy in Pakistan.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.