Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Politics of Uzbekistan
The movement toward economic reform in Uzbekistan has not been matched by movement toward political reform. The government of Uzbekistan has instead tightened its grip since independence, cracking down increasingly on opposition groups. Although the names have changed, the institutions of government remain similar to those that existed before the breakup of the Soviet Union. The government has justified its restraint of public assembly, opposition parties, and the media by emphasizing the need for stability and a gradual approach to change during the transitional period, citing the conflict and chaos in the other former republics (most convincingly, neighboring Tajikistan). This approach has found credence among a large share of Uzbekistan's population, although such a position may not be sustainable in the long run.
Despite the trappings of institutional change, the first years of independence saw more resistance than acceptance of the institutional changes required for democratic reform to take hold. Whatever initial movement toward democracy existed in Uzbekistan in the early days of independence seems to have been overcome by the inertia of the remaining Soviet-style strong centralized leadership.
In the Soviet era, Uzbekistan organized its government and its local communist party in conformity with the structure prescribed for all the republics. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) occupied the central position in ruling the country. The party provided both the guidance and the personnel for the government structure. The system was strictly bureaucratic: every level of government and every governmental body found its mirror image in the party. The instrument used by the CPSU to control the bureaucracy was the system of nomenklatura, a list of sensitive jobs in the government and other important organizations that could be filled only with party approval. The nomenklatura defined the Soviet political leadership, and the people on the list invariably were members of the CPSU.
Following the failure of the coup against the government of Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in August 1991, Uzbekistan's Supreme Soviet declared the independence of the republic, henceforth to be known as the Republic of Uzbekistan. At the same time, the Communist Party of Uzbekistan voted to cut its ties with the CPSU; three months later, it changed its name to the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDPU), but the party leadership, under President Islam Karimov, remained in place. Independence brought a series of institutional changes, but the substance of governance in Uzbekistan changed much less dramatically.
On December 21, 1991, together with the leaders of ten other Soviet republics, Karimov agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union and form the Commonwealth of Independent States, of which Uzbekistan became a charter member according to the Alma-Ata Declaration . Shortly thereafter, Karimov was elected president of independent Uzbekistan in the new country's first contested election. Karimov drew 86 percent of the vote against opposition candidate Mohammed Salikh, whose showing experts praised in view of charges that the election had been rigged. The major opposition party, Birlik, had been refused registration as an official party in time for the election.
In 1992 the PDPU retained the dominant position in the executive and legislative branches of government that the Communist Party of Uzbekistan had enjoyed. All true opposition groups were repressed and physically discouraged. Birlik, the original opposition party formed by intellectuals in 1989, was banned for allegedly subversive activities, establishing the Karimov regime's dominant rationalization for increased authoritarianism: Islamic fundamentalism threatened to overthrow the secular state and establish an Islamic regime similar to that in Iran. The constitution ratified in December 1992 reaffirmed that Uzbekistan is a secular state. Although the constitution prescribed a new form of legislature, the PDPU-dominated Supreme Soviet remained in office for nearly two years until the first parliamentary election, which took place in December 1994 and January 1995.
In 1993 Karimov's concern about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism spurred Uzbekistan's participation in the multinational CIS peacekeeping force sent to quell the civil war in nearby Tajikistan--a force that remained in place three years later because of continuing hostilities. Meanwhile, in 1993 and 1994 continued repression by the Karimov regime brought strong criticism from international human rights organizations. In March 1995, Karimov took another step in the same direction by securing a 99 percent majority in a referendum on extending his term as president from the prescribed next election in 1997 to 2000. In early 1995, Karimov announced a new policy of toleration for opposition parties and coalitions, apparently in response to the need to improve Uzbekistan's international commercial position. A few new parties were registered in 1995, although the degree of their opposition to the government was doubtful, and some imprisonments of opposition political figures continued.
The parliamentary election, the first held under the new constitution's guarantee of universal suffrage to all citizens eighteen years of age or older, excluded all parties except the PDPU and the progovernment Progress of the Fatherland Party, despite earlier promises that all parties would be free to participate. The new, 250-seat parliament, called the Oly Majlis or Supreme Soviet, included only sixty-nine candidates running for the PDPU, but an estimated 120 more deputies were PDPU members technically nominated to represent local councils rather than the PDPU. The result was that Karimov's solid majority continued after the new parliament went into office.
From the beginning of his presidency, Karimov remained committed in words to instituting democratic reforms. A new constitution was adopted by the legislature in December 1992. Officially it creates a separation of powers among a strong presidency, the Oly Majlis, and a judiciary. In practice, however, these changes have been largely cosmetic. Although the language of the new constitution includes many democratic features, it can be superseded by executive decrees and legislation, and often constitutional law simply is ignored.
The president, who is directly elected to a five-year term that can be repeated once, is the head of state and is granted supreme executive power by the constitution. As commander in chief of the armed forces, the president also may declare a state of emergency or of war. The president is empowered to appoint the prime minister and full cabinet of ministers and the judges of the three national courts, subject to the approval of the Oly Majlis, and to appoint all members of lower courts. The president also has the power to dissolve the parliament, in effect negating the Oly Majlis's veto power over presidential nominations in a power struggle situation.
Deputies to the unicameral Oly Majlis, the highest legislative body, are elected to five-year terms. The body may be dismissed by the president with the concurrence of the Constitutional Court; because that court is subject to presidential appointment, the dismissal clause weights the balance of power heavily toward the executive branch. The Oly Majlis enacts legislation, which may be initiated by the president, within the parliament, by the high courts, by the procurator general (highest law enforcement official in the country), or by the government of the Autonomous Province of Karakalpakstan. Besides legislation, international treaties, presidential decrees, and states of emergency also must be ratified by the Oly Majlis.
The national judiciary includes the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and the High Economic Court. Lower court systems exist at the regional, district, and town levels. Judges at all levels are appointed by the president and approved by the Oly Majlis. Nominally independent of the other branches of government, the courts remain under complete control of the executive branch. As in the system of the Soviet era, the procurator general and his regional and local equivalents are both the state's chief prosecuting officials and the chief investigators of criminal cases, a configuration that limits the pretrial rights of defendants.
In effect, the executive branch holds almost all power. The judiciary branch lacks independence and the legislature, which meets only a few days each year, has little power to shape laws.
The president selects and replaces provincial governors. Under terms of a December 1995 referendum, Islom Karimov's first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to yet again extend Karimov's term. The referendum passed and Karimov's term was extended by act of the parliament to December 2007. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic standards.
Opposition parties and the media
Also passed in the 2002 referendum was a plan to create a bicameral parliament. Several political parties have been formed with government approval but have yet to show interest in advocating alternatives to government policy. Similarly, although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspapers) have been established, these either remain under government control, or rarely broach political topics. Independent political parties have been denied registration under restrictive registration procedures.
Despite extensive constitutional protections, the Karimov government has actively suppressed the activities rights of political movements, continues to ban unsanctioned public meetings and demonstrations, and continues to suppress opposition figures. The repression reduces constructive opposition even when institutional changes have been made. In the mid-1990s, legislation established significant rights for independent trade unions, separate from the government, and enhanced individual rights; but enforcement is uneven, and the role of the state security services remains central.
With the exception of sporadic liberalization, all opposition movements and independent media are essentially banned in Uzbekistan. The early 1990s were characterized by arrests and beatings of opposition figures on fabricated charges. For example, one prominent Uzbek, Ibrahim Bureyev, was arrested in 1994 after announcing plans to form a new opposition party. After reportedly being freed just before the March referendum, Bureyev shortly thereafter was arrested again on a charge of possessing illegal firearms and drugs. In April 1995, fewer than two weeks after the referendum extending President Karimov's term, six dissidents were sentenced to prison for distributing the party newspaper of Erk and inciting the overthrow of Karimov. Members of opposition groups have been harassed by Uzbekistan's secret police as far away as Moscow.
Crackdown on Islamic fundamentalism
The government severely represses those it suspects of Islamic extremism. Some 6,000 suspected extremists are incarcerated, and some are believed to have died over the past several years from prison disease and abuse. With few options for religious instruction, some young Muslims have turned to underground extremist Islamic movements. The police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique. The government has begun to bring to trial some officers accused of torture. Four police officers and three intelligence service officers have been convicted. The government has granted amnesty to approximately 2000 political and nonpolitical prisoners over the past 2 years. In 2002 and the beginning of 2003 the government has arrested fewer suspected Islamic fundamentalists than in the past. Finally, in a move welcomed by the international community, the government of Uzbekistan ended prior censorship, though the media remain tightly controlled.
conventional long form: Republic of Uzbekistan
conventional short form: Uzbekistan
local long form: Uzbekiston Respublikasi
local short form: none
former: Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic
Data code: UZ
Government type: republic; effectively authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch; executive power concentrated in the presidency
Capital: Tashkent (Toshkent)
Administrative divisions: 12 wiloyatlar (singular - wiloyat), 1 autonomous republic* (respublikasi), and 1 city** (shahri):
- Andijon Wiloyati
- Bukhoro Wiloyati (Bukhara)
- Farghona Wiloyati
- Jizzakh Wiloyati
- Khorazm Wiloyati (Urganch )
- Namangan Wiloyati
- Nawoiy Wiloyati
- Qashqadaryo Wiloyati (Qarshi)
- Qoraqalpoghiston* (Nukus )
- Samarqand Wiloyati (Samarkand)
- Sirdaryo Wiloyati (Guliston)
- Surkhondaryo Wiloyati (Termiz )
- Toshkent Shahri** (Tashkent)
- Toshkent Wiloyati (Tashkent)
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions and alternate spellings have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
National holiday: Independence Day, September 1, (1991)
Constitution: new constitution adopted December 8, 1992
Legal system: evolution of Soviet civil law; still lacks independent judicial system
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Islom Karimov (since March 24, 1990, when he was elected president by the then Supreme Soviet)
head of government: Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev (since December 12, 2003) and 10 deputy prime ministers
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president with approval of the Supreme Assembly
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; election last held January 9, 2000 (next to be held in 2007); (previously was a five-year term, extended by national referendum on January 27, 2002) prime minister and deputy ministers appointed by the president.
election results: Islom Karimov reelected president; percent of vote - Islom Karimov 91.9%, Abdulkhafiz Dzhalalov 4.2%
Legislative branch: Unicameral Supreme Assembly or Oliy Majlis (250 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms); note - on January 27, 2002, a referendum was held that will make the Assembly bicameral on the 2004 elections
elections: last held December 5, 1999 (next to be held in December 2004)
election results: seats by party - NDP 48, Self-Sacrificers Party 34, Fatherland Progress Party 20, Adolat Social Democratic Party 11, MTP 10, citizens' groups 16, local government 110, vacant 1
note: not all seats in the last Supreme Assembly election were contested; all parties in the Supreme Assembly support President Karimov
Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Supreme Assembly
Political parties and leaders: Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party (Anwar Jurabayev, first secretary); Democratic National Rebirth Party (Milly Tiklanish) or MTP (Aziz Kayumov, chairman); People's Democratic Party or NDP (formerly Communist Party) (Abdulkhafiz Jalolov, first secretary); Self-Sacrificers Party or Fidokorlar National Democratic Party (Ahtam Tursunov, first secretary); note - Fatherland Progress Party merged with Self-Sacrificers Party
Political pressure groups and leaders: Birlik (Unity) Movement (Abdurakhim Polat, chairman); Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party (Muhammad Solih, chairman) was banned December 9, 1992; Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (Abdumannob Polat, chairman); Independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan (Mikhail Ardzinov, chairman)
International organization participation: AsDB, CCC, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer)
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), white, and green separated by red fimbriations with a white crescent moon and 12 white stars in the upper hoist-side quadrant
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