On December 23, 2019, the Mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE / ODIHR) published on the official website the Statement of preliminary findings and conclusions from the monitoring results of parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan from November 25 to December 23 this year.
It is noted in the statement that the elections were conducted in the context of comprehensive reforms, initiated by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in 2017. The reform strategy, which is being implemented in stages, aims to transform Uzbekistan’s economic, social and political life. It is underlined that the elections, held under the slogan “New Uzbekistan – New Elections”, has termed an irreversible modernisation and democratisation process. The transformation of economic, social and political life is, by definition of the head of Uzbekistan, irreversible.
OSCE recognizes that the recently adopted Election Code incorporates several previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations and brings the legal framework closer in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards.
Positive assessment is given to a great effort of the Central Election Commission (CEC) to prepare the parliamentary elections in an improved manner. Ascertained abidance of the CEC the procedure for conducting elections. It is noted improving access for persons with disabilities, training thousands of polling officials and conducting an intensive voter information campaign. It is welcomed the granting the right to vote citizens sentenced to a term of imprisonment for less serious crimes.
The introduction of the new centralized voter register, the Single Electronic Voter List (SEVL), is evaluated as a significant achievement, which was designed to both lessen the possibility for multiple entries for the same person and to better ensure the universality of the vote.
For the first time since 1999, the ODIHR report notes the openness and transparency of elections. The election campaign was held under conditions characterized by the highest respect and authority. The media widely covered the election. Moreover, the OSCE praises what is evidence that civil and political circles openly come forward with political proposals and criticism of the authorities. The campaign took place in an environment characterized by increased assertion of and tolerance by the authorities for freedom of expression, though legal restrictions on this and other fundamental freedoms persisted.
An important novelty, as noted in the statement, is that frequent live debates took place, most of which was broadcast live. The media had more opportunities to cover the elections. Bloggers are seen as the most important source of independent commentary, and their influence is increasing. It is noted that OSCE observers did not record any discriminatory practice or commentary on minorities during the campaign.
For the first time, it is also recognized that the Election Code establishes a reasonable framework that provides legal means of responding to violations of electoral law and the obligation of parties to publish reports on the spending of funds in the election campaign on their website and in the media within a month.
It is emphasized that in total, the CEC accredited 820 international observers and 135 international journalists for whom was created equal and unhindered access to the electoral process.
OSCE document also lists a number of other positive transformations in state and public administration system, electoral practice.
Besides, the report of OSCE/ODIHR mission contains a number of recommendations aimed at improving electoral legislation and election practice.
It is proposed to exclude criminal punishment for libel, insulting the dignity of the citizens, dissemination of false information. This, according to the mission, significantly limits the activities of journalists and the right to freedom of thought. In this regard, OSCE/ODIHR welcomes that the President has tasked the Agency for Information and Mass Communications to work on amending the laws such that libel and insult are no longer punished by imprisonment.
In addition, OSCE/ODIHR mission notes that the establishment of requirement for candidates to permanently reside in the country at least for five years before the voting day is at odds with international standards. It is also proposed to consider the possibility of granting persons recognized by the court as incapacitated, the right to vote in the elections, and citizens – to be nominated as independent candidates.
OSCE/ODIHR mission also believes that women are currently underrepresented in public and political life. At the same time, ODIHR recognizes that the number of women in the CEC has increased from 3 to 7, and in the electoral bodies – up to 49 percent. It was welcomed that the number of women nominated had exceeded 41 percent.
The ODIHR mission cites the words of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the Plenary Session of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis on June 22, 2019, on the importance of further strengthening the role of women in the socio-political life of the country.
The mission also notes that on the day of voting at polling stations there were cases of voting on behalf of others, violations in the registration of voters and counting of votes, difficulties in filling out the final protocols. It should be noted that the Central Election Commission, together with the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan, recognized a number of violations of electoral legislation on the election day and are currently conducting relevant investigations.
In conclusion, the Mission thanked the Central Election Commission for their invitation to observe the elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their co-operation.
It should be noted that the expanded OSCE delegation consisting of 316 observers including 271 from OSCE/ODIHR and 45 from Parliamentary Assembly of OSCE from 37 member states of the organization participated in the elections for the first time in Uzbekistan.
Unlike previous reports, the current statement also takes into account the results of the observation of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.