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To the Ballot for the Future
The elections of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan due December 4.
The electoral season, which kicked off on September 9, has entered its final stage. 9,339 polling stations in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regions and the Tashkent city, as well as 44 abroad, are completely ready for voting. They provide all the conditions for the electorate to declare their will.
Preparations for the elections have been carried out in strict compliance with the Program of Major Activities approved by the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the country. The document identifies specific events, deadlines for their implementation, and executives in charge. The program has ensured the conduct of all activities within the terms and sequence stipulated by the law. Its posting on the CEC website, publication and distribution as a brochure has ensured the public control over all stages of the electoral process.
The Republican Press Center for the Coverage of Presidential Elections has been operating effectively since September 9. Press centers at the district election commissions in all regions of the country have also demonstrated fruitful performance. They have so far organized nearly 100 press conferences and briefings on election coverage, thereby contributing to ensuring the openness and transparency of the electoral process.
The election campaign of candidates has come to a close. It was launched on October 28 with the registration of presidential hopefuls by the Central Election Commission.
37,500 observers from political parties, and more than 500 observers from foreign states and international organizations have embarked on their mission, and they keep arriving in Uzbekistan.
Over a thousand stories about the elections in Uzbekistan have been published and aired in the foreign media since the start of the election campaign. This is an unprecedented case in our practice.
Such a high interest of the international community in the presidential ballot in Uzbekistan is triggered primarily by the fact that they will indicate the stability and potency of democratic institutions that have been established during the years of independence, the effectiveness of socio-political and socio-economic reforms, and the extent of maturity of civil society. Moreover, the election's outcome will determine the future course of development of not only in Uzbekistan, but also in the entire Central Asian region, where Uzbekistan is seen as a key player, a bulwark of stability and security guarantor.
The peculiarity of the current election campaign is reflected by the intensified inter-party struggle and competition, the genuine competitiveness of electoral platforms and policy programs of presidential candidates and political parties.
The election campaigning was conducted through mass media, with publication and distribution of print, visual, audiovisual and other campaign materials, meetings with voters.
Websites of political parties, print editions of the parties, outdoor advertising, electronic monitors, electoral leaflets and other campaigning materials have been used in the fight for the hearts and minds of voters.
In order to raise awareness of their policy programs, the candidates and their authorized representatives have held meetings with the electorate in videoconferencing format, unprecedented for Uzbekistan. All the activities are widely covered by central and regional television and radio channels.
Pre-election meetings of presidential nominees have been held in all 14 electoral districts. In addition, nearly a thousand similar meetings were held by authorized persons of the candidates.
The media provided a level playing field in terms of duration and amount of coverage of the election activities of candidates in news programs and other information materials.
Thus, the National Broadcasting Company’s TV and radio channels O’zbekiston and Yoshlar provided each presidential nominee with 638 free airtime minutes, while 12 local TV and radio channels of the same Company have provided each of the candidates with 206 free minutes, ‘Toshkent’ TV and radio channel granted 286 minutes of airtime. Khalq Suzi, Narodnoe Slovo and Pravda Vostoka newspapers allocated 6 pages of print space, while 30 local newspapers have assigned 55.5 pages.
The candidates were also provided with free print space in Ovozi Tojik and Ovozi Samarkand newspapers, published in Tajik, as well as in the Nurly Zhol newspaper in Kazakh language.
Apart from that, each candidate was granted 642 outdoor advertising means in the regions. 36 electronic monitors across the nation broadcast campaigning videos of presidential nominees for free, showing them in a single block.
The hopefuls were fully provided with the right for free travel by air and rail passenger transport throughout the country during the election campaign.
It is worth to mention the increased competitiveness among those who run for President as a result of growing and strengthening role of political parties in the renewal and modernization of the country. Thus, in accordance with the amendments to the Constitution, a candidate for the post of the Prime Minister is nominated by a political party that has received the largest number of seats in the lower house of the legislature during the parliamentary elections. There is another novelty: UzLiDeP and Milliy Tiklanish, representing a parliamentary majority, came together in 2015 as a Bloc of Democratic Forces in the Oliy Majlis. In turn, factions of the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan and Adolat Social Democratic Party declared themselves the parliamentary opposition.
All political parties support the principles of democracy, which unite them. Their approaches differ in prioritizing the provision of social interests, and ways of their implementation.
They have their specific electorate. UzLiDeP relies on entrepreneurs, emerging middle class, business elite, including that in the agricultural sector, while the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan capitalizes on the population segments in need of targeted social support. Adolat SDPU considers itself the representative of modern social democracy, with industrial workers and wage-workers of the services sector as its main constituency. Milly Tiklanish DPU furthers the interests of creative and scientific intellectuals.
The study and analysis of policy programs of political parties, the comparison of their differences helps voters to decide on their preferences.
Given the priority of economic development of the country, the Milliy Tiklanish DPU considers it important to comprehensively support domestic producers, uphold handicrafts and family businesses, as well as tourism as an effective economic instrument for promoting the national culture and history. In turn, UzLiDeP relies on the complete support of entrepreneurship, small business, farming enterprises, and stands for the reduction of state presence in the economy, whereas the People's Democratic Party of Uzbekistan is in favor of retaining the regulatory role of the state in the conditions of market economy, which, as it believes, would ensure the effective interaction of market mechanisms established by the state and clear rules in the sphere of social policy, delivering economic benefits for socially vulnerable segments of the population.
Adolat stakes on innovative development of the economy, introduction of advanced resources and energy saving technologies, as they see them highly promising.
The goals of political parties largely coincide in terms of addressing social problems, while each of them defines mechanisms and ways to achieve them in its own way. For instance, the program of DPU Milliy Tiklanish focuses on protection of families, mental and physical health of women, children and youth. UzLiDeP stands for the creation of conditions for self-realization of each individual. The PDPU prioritizes implementation of a strong social policy with regard to the poor and vulnerable segments of the population, and the SDPU Adolat seeks to avoid a high level of social stratification of society by income, property, access to social services.
In socio-political life, the DPU Milliy Tiklanish supports traditional national democratic institutions, promoting national revival and development, and strengthening the unity of the people. UzLiDeP seeks to further pursue the democratization of state power and administration, strengthen the guarantees of inviolability of private property. PDPU stands for strengthening the role of the state, protection of interests of pensioners. The program of Adolat sets the task of building a ‘state of national welfare’, strengthening of the principles of freedom, equality, social justice, solidarity and humanism, non-admission of discrimination.
Over the years of independence, Uzbekistan has shaped the national electoral legislation in line with international standards.
Adopted on December 8, 1992, the Constitution of Uzbekistan contains a separate 23rd chapter on the electoral system. It regulates the issues of presidential elections, elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, and the representative bodies of state authority in the field.
The Article 117 of the Basic Law stipulates that the elections are conducted on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. The right to vote is granted to the citizens of Uzbekistan who have reached the age of eighteen on the day of the election and older. The universal suffrage is implemented regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, language, religion, social origin, beliefs, individual or social status.
A dozen of specific acts have been adopted during the years of independence to directly regulate the electoral processes, including the law ‘On guarantees of electoral rights of citizens’, ‘On the elections of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan’, ‘On elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan’, ‘On the Central Election Commission’, and others. Certain aspects of the organization and conduct of elections are also regulated by specific regulations and instructions of the Central Election Commission.
There is every reason to say that Uzbekistan has built a full code of laws on elections, which clearly, consistently and plainly fixes legal rules. The legislative framework in this area is stable, thereby ensuring certainty for the participants of the electoral process.
The Concept of Intensification of Democratic Reforms and Formation of Civil Society in the Country, as adopted by the national parliament in November 2010, is seen as an important policy document, also with regard to the further streamlining of the electoral legislation.
In 2014, certain articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan were amended within the framework of the Concept. In particular, the amendments defined a system of democratic formation of the Central Election Commission as a permanent constitutional body, the basic principles of its activity strengthened the legal guarantees of independence of the entire system of the electoral bodies that are responsible for the organization of the elections to representative bodies, and established liability for interference with their activities.
Implementation of abovementioned and other laws has been contributing to the full implementation of the principle of freedom of choice, consistent democratization of the electoral system of the country, and strengthening the principles of openness and transparency of the elections.
This fact was vividly proved by the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014 and 2015, when the authoritative international observers, national and foreign media confirmed the effectiveness of the rule of law, high political and legal consciousness of citizens, and their confidence in the electoral system of Uzbekistan.
It is important to note that the process of reforms in Uzbekistan has a continuous and consistent nature, is based on thorough analysis of the course made, the best practices of developed democratic states, and, above all, takes into account the raising level of public and political awareness of the Uzbek citizens.
In this context, it was quite natural that the Law ‘On the elections of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan’ was amended in December of the same year after the presidential elections took place in March 2015.
The novelties have helped to clarify the concept of pre-election campaign, its types, forms and methods, set the deadlines, and procedure of early voting. It was envisaged to establish polling stations for the persons in penal institutions, who expect a court conviction. Experts give a separate mention to the reduction of the total number of voters' signatures from five to one percent, which should be provided by political parties in support of their candidate for the election.
All the abovementioned measures have created yet more favorable conditions for the liberalization of the elections, ensuring their transparency, free and independent expression of citizens’ will.
Streamlining of electoral legislation in Uzbekistan is underway. For example, members of the Legislative Chamber, senators, CEC members, are currently considering the possibility of introduction of a single electronic register of voters. There is no doubt that the presidential elections of 2016 will give new food for reflection in this field.
It is no exaggeration to say that the international community is closely monitoring the progress of the election campaign.
Journalists of news agencies from 30 countries of the world have already been accredited to follow the election. An unprecedented number of foreign observers - legal scholars, political scientists, public figures, representatives of national parliaments and electoral bodies of Asia, Africa, Europe, America and the CIS, have expressed the will to observe the election. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Association of World Election Bodies, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States have delegated their observer missions to Uzbekistan.
The full-scale mission of the OSCE ODIHR, including about 200 long and short-term observers, will monitor the elections for the first time.
The country's legislation provides for the monitoring all cycles of electoral process, ranging from its beginning to the vote counting, and clearly establishes the rights and powers of the observers.
Thus, the Law ‘On the elections of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan’ settles the right of international observers, including media representatives, to participate in all events on the preparation and conduct of elections, be present at the vote counting and compilation of the precinct election commission protocol, request and receive copies of the results of the election documents, certified by the election commission.
Approved by the Central Election Commission for the first time in the electoral practice, a ‘Program of measures on raising the level of the legal culture of voters in the run-up to the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan’, is the universally recognized novelty.
It was elaborated with an eye to proposals of various public associations, mass media and civil society institutions, which have accumulated a considerable experience in close interaction with various population strata.
The program covers almost all segments of the population, particularly women, youth, veterans, persons with disabilities, the military, self-government bodies, labor groups, representatives of educational institutions, as well as the fellow citizens who temporarily reside abroad.
Dozens of thousands of events have been under the document. The agenda included workshops, conferences, round-table discussions, various rallies like ‘My voice is my country's future’, ‘I vote by myself’, ‘Each member of my family has his voice’, ‘We have the right to choose’, which aimed at further raise of the legal culture in citizens.
Certain measures under the program are taken to eradicate the so-called ‘family voting’ and other violations of electoral law. They include broadcasting of TV and radio commercials, public campaigns. 100,000 copies of posters are published and distributed among the population.
CEC prepared and delivered to the regions over 717,000 posters. All polling stations were supplied with over 253,000 collections and brochures with legal acts, including 20,000 copies of the Law ‘On elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan’.
The O’zbekiston Channel runs a TV Show ‘Elections, a Mirror of Democracy’ in Uzbek and Russian. A news program ‘News of the Central Election Commission’ is broadcast every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Uzbek, Russian and English languages. ‘Didar’, ‘Rangikamon’, ‘Naupir’, ‘Chinsen’ programs are aired every Friday in the Kazakh, Tajik, Korean, and Karakalpak languages.
Since November 1, 2016, the Central Election Commission has been running the round the clock hotline to avoid violations of the law during the preparation and conduct of elections, timely consider appeals of individuals and legal entities, and respond to them in conformity with the law.
The raise of the level of the legal culture and electoral activity of women and youth is another priority. It is very important for 555,000 young men and women, who will give a vote on December 4 for the first time in their life.
Much attention has been paid in Uzbekistan to respect the electoral rights of citizens with disabilities. For the first time in election practice, our country has taken additional measures to produce ballots in Braille for blind people.
There are all the conditions for the participation of representatives of various nations and nationalities in the electoral process. Precinct election commissions comprise more than 11% of representatives of different nations living in Uzbekistan - Russians, Turkmens, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Ukrainians, Koreans and others. The materials of election campaign are published in Uzbek, Karakalpak, Russian, Kazakh and Tajik languages, and generally, the information about the election campaign is published by the media in 17 languages. Such publications as ‘Koryo Sinmun’, ‘Thonil – Unity’ in the Korean, and ‘Apaga’ in the Armenian language freely cover the electoral processes on their pages.
In conclusion, it would be appropriate to mention the active involvement of NGOs and citizens' assemblies in the election campaign. Nearly 18,000 members of precinct election commissions, or 18.3% of their total number are the employees of citizens' assemblies. 303 polling stations throughout the country are located directly in the building of citizens' assemblies.
As for the NGOs, their activists make up 23.4% of the composition of district election commissions. An NGO representative was appointed a chairman in each second DEC, deputy chairman – in four, a secretary - in six DECs. Their representation exceeds 10% in the composition of precinct election commissions.
Since the beginning of the election campaign, nongovernmental non-profit organizations have held more than 50,000 conferences, round tables, workshops, meetings and rallies in the form of social partnership with government agencies and educational institutions. They established public control over the preparation and conduct of elections. For instance, the Independent Institute for Monitoring the Formation of Civil Society has been carefully monitoring the whole process, informing the public about compliance with all requirements of the legislation. The results of monitoring of previous parliamentary and presidential elections were broadly discussed among the public, and laid the foundation for the follow up development of the electoral legislation and practice.