Uzbeks Underwhelmed by Constitutional Reform
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||13 April 2011|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Uzbeks Underwhelmed by Constitutional Reform, 13 April 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4da7ebfbc.html [accessed 5 March 2015]|
The public reaction to constitutional changes giving Uzbekistan's parliament greater powers, most people seemed either sceptical that anything would change, or unaware the reform had been passed.
The Uzbek parliament passed the amendments on March 25, after President Islam Karimov outlined the substances in November.
The reform means that a political party or bloc that wins most parliamentary seats in an election gets to nominate a prime minister, a right currently reserved for the president. Parliament will also have powers to seek the dismissal of the prime minister.
The government, meanwhile, is to assume full responsibility for areas like the economy and social affairs that now fall within the president's remit.
Another key change affects the arrangements for replacing the head of state in the event he dies or becomes incapable of continuing in office. At the moment, parliament is supposed to pick one of its members to fill in on an acting basis while a presidential election is organised. Now the acting position will automatically go to the chairman of the Senate, the upper house of parliament, with an election due within three months. (See Uzbek Leader Uses Reforms to Secure Future.)
Karimov, who has run Uzbekistan for the past two decades, is expected to sign the changes into law within a month.
Although on paper, the reform appears to create a more balanced distribution of power between president, legislature and executive, it has failed to excite public enthusiasm.
A Tashkent-based media expert noted that little information had been made available about the changes, beyond announcements in the state media, and no attempt at public consultation.
People in the capital Tashkent had largely heard of the reform, but reacted with indifference. Outside the capital, many were unaware that anything had changed.
A Tashkent lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity said reforms of this kind did not reflect a real intention to alter the political system, and were merely a pretence.
A shop-owner in the city said the constitutional amendments would have no impact on his life, so he was not interested in them.
For those with a keener interest in politics, for example people whose businesses might be affected by changes in policy and personnel, the real story was about what lay behind the apparent weakening of the prime minister's post, which is now a matter for parliament to decide.
Many see this as a move against the current prime minister, Shavkat Mirziyoev, who is rumoured to have grown too powerful for Karimov's liking and may even have ambitions to take over as president.
This article was produced as part of IWPR's News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.