Uzbekistan – Constitutional reform to be considered

Last week, the legislative commission of the Uzbek Parliament (Oliy Majlis) drafted a law reforming the powers of the President and the Prime Minister of the country. The proposal for the constitutional reform came from the President, Islam Karimov, who is 76 years old now and has been ruling the country as president since national independence. Indeed, Karimov outlined a broader reformist project on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the constitution of Uzbekistan in December 2013, including an expansion of the rights and powers of the Parliament, increasing the responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers and, in general, the strengthening of public and parliamentary control over executive bodies. Furthermore, the move is also in line with the President’s ‘Concept of further deepening democratic reforms and establishing civil society’ as adopted and promoted since 2010.

The draft law advances a number of amendments and additions to six articles of the constitution. Such changes deal with the system of checks and balances, deepening the control of the Parliament and the public on the government, and increasing powers and rights of the Cabinet of Ministers. Some executive powers of the President are transferred to the Prime Minister, whose election procedure is also amended

All political parties and factions in the Parliament praised the draft law as a significant step forward towards the ‘establishment of a modern, democratic, strong civil society, sustainable development of the state and society, the economy of the country, high growth rates of level and quality of life, the formation of harmoniously developed and healthy generation and the expansion of the public and citizen control’. The same opinions were also expressed by different NGOs and civil society actors that met with the Parliamentary commission for reviewing the legislative draft.

However, there are several reasons for being skeptical of the reform’s characteristics as no detail about what powers would exactly be transferred, or about the implementation strategy of public and parliamentary control over the government has been released. The constitution was first adopted in 1992. Since then, it was amended in 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2011, constantly strengthening the President’s power despite the pro-democratic rhetoric. Nevertheless, given Karimov’s precarious health condition, advanced age and unclear plans for succession, this might be his last consitutional reform and therefore he might be willing to really change the balance of power among state institutions.

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