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Uzbekistan strengthens parliament
Country said moving toward democratisation
By Shakar Saadi
TASHKENT – Spurred by the recent events in the Middle East and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan is moving more toward democracy.
At a plenary session March 25, the senate adopted constitutional amendments that strengthen parliamentary authority.
More power to parliament
The senate and lower house (the Legislative Chamber) will now discuss the Prime Minister (PM)’s reports on major issues, Senator Svetlana Artykova said.
“If parliament considers any issue important to society, then it may at any time demand information from the PM. So parliament’s influence over the executive branch is growing,” she said.
The PM’s powers are also expanding. The PM may now officially recommend to the president candidates for hokim (oblast governor) and Tashkent mayor. Those positions previously were completely up to the president.
“The hokims head the executive branch in the provinces,” she said. “They are responsible for economic, social and cultural development there. In general, the government, namely, the PM, is responsible for … the executive bodies, so granting such powers specifically to him makes sense.”
Independent political analyst Linura Yuldasheva expressed scepticism about the changes, but conceded that the changes represent a step toward democratisation.
Regarding a policy that would have the ruling party or a combination of parties propose new prime ministers, Senate Committee on Legislation and Judicial and Legal Affairs member Khalida Alimova said, “This has great significance in enhancing the role of political parties … and increasing competition between them.”
No-confidence votes allowed
For the first time, the Uzbek parliament will have the power to vote no confidence in the PM. A minimum of one-third of the Legislative Chamber can submit an official vote of no confidence in the PM to the president, who then would give the issue to a joint session of parliament. It would take a two-thirds majority of all MPs to pass the vote.
“The introduction of such innovations … will undoubtedly serve to improve the government’s performance and its accountability to parliament,” Artykova said.
“If there is a law, then whether it works completely depends on us,” said independent political analyst Khatam Makhamov, who predicted that the amendments would improvement government effectiveness and accountability.
“The term ‘Uzbek model of development’ has firmly settled in the vocabulary of Uzbek politicians,” Makhamov said. “(It is) a gradual, multi-stage development of political, economic and social actors without drastic departures or radical changes that may arouse both political actors and the people. … I think this is a giant step toward democracy, and it is hard to overestimate it.”
Parliament’s adoption of such an array of amendments shows the government’s desire to move forward, Tashkent State University constitutional law instructor Mikail Ortykov said.
“Such changes require the government to be more responsive. … There is no reason to underestimate them,” he said. “Now everything depends on the people and how actively they demand their rights.”
“The government has understood Egypt and Libya’s example,” said Bakhtior Kadyrov, a political scientist at the Interior Ministry’s University of World Economy and Diplomacy. “The people can rise up 30 or 40 years after a regime is established, or they can do it as early as tomorrow, and then no amount of violence will stop it. The only thing that can help avoid political upheaval is democratising government and judicial bodies, fighting corruption and improving the population’s social well-being.”