Briefing at the Embassy on the results of Parliamentary Elections in Uzbekistan
On 7th of January 2015, the Embassy of Uzbekistan in London held a briefing devoted to the results of elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament), as well as regional, district and city councils of people's deputies of the Republic. Representatives of the Parliament, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and other Government organisations of the United Kingdom, as well as the British-Uzbek Society, business, expert-analytical and scientific communities, NGOs, and British international observers attended the briefing.
In his speech, Ambassador of Uzbekistan Otabek Akbarov informed the participants about the results of the parliamentary elections held on December 21, 2014, stressing their significance as a step of further democratisation and political modernisation of Uzbekistan. It was noted that the elections were held on the background of reforms envisaged by the Concept which was put forward by President Islam Karimov in November 2010 and stipulated a necessity of strengthening the role of political parties and Parliament. He informed about the number of seats obtained by the four parties of Uzbekistan (in total - 135), along with 15 mandates allocated to Ecological Movement. Attention is paid to the diversity of the renewed deputy corps on national, social, gender and age affiliation. More than 340 observers from 52 countries and 5 international organisations participated in monitoring of the elections. It was also reported on the order of formation of the Senate following the elections on January 13-14 this year. A special emphasis was made on the launch of the campaign for election of the President of Uzbekistan which will be held on March 29 this year.
Five international observers from the United Kingdom also shared their views with participants of the briefing.
Chairman of the British-Uzbek Society Dr Hartley Booth OBE positively evaluated reforms in the country since Independence. In his opinion, Uzbekistan is firmly moving on its path of building democracy, which assumes step by step changes, rather than radical ones, which would be fraught with negative consequences for a society. In the framework of his participation in the elections as an observer, he visited 7 polling stations without any restrictions, and held discussions with officials of district commissions.
Dr Booth stressed that all conditions were created in the polling stations for the full implementation of the voters’ political rights. He especially mentioned the absence of any attempt to influence on voters, the festive atmosphere among the population on the election day, the presence of groups of observers at each polling station, which ensured their openness and transparency.
According to Dr Booth, securing 15 seats in the Legislative Chamber for the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan is reasonable and demonstrates the importance attached by the Government to environmental issues and the role of non-governmental organisations. He referred to the practice in the UK, where a number of members of the House of Lords are not elected but appointed or inherit their positions.
Dr Booth also drew attention to the large number of women registered as candidates and included as members of election commissions. In particular, within the established quota of 30%, actual number of female candidates composed 35%.
Deputy Chairman of the British-Uzbek Society Dr. Shirin Akiner expressed her gratitude to the Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan for the invitation to take part in the elections as an international observer. She highlighted two main points of the pre-election preparation and its holding - substantive and organisational. During her visit to the polling stations in Termez, she noted the fact that representatives of political parties that are registered as candidates represent different nationalities, including Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Russians and Koreans.
Dr Akiner said that during her communication with voters, they told her about a significant improvement of the socio-economic situation in the country over the past 20 years. She observed a huge interest and civic activity of the population during the elections. When it came to vote for a certain candidate, voters took into account their electoral programs, ability to solve specific socio-economic issues, including improvement of the quality of health and education, the conditions for small and medium businesses. She noted that the competition between political parties was perceptible, and the rivalry between candidates took place in a constructive and respectful manner on the basis of local traditions. This was later confirmed by other British observers as well.
The Executive Director of Pathfinder Trade & Invest Michael Thomas noted the high level of attention to international observers during the elections. During his visit to 6 polling stations, the organisers and the public have expressed serious attitude to the preparation and conduct of elections.
According to him, it was good having the elections on a Sunday as this assisted in getting a good turnout. Also, the polling areas have been divided into manageable sizes of 2000-3000 voters.
Michael Tomas appreciated a high level organisation of the polling stations. In particular, voting was carried out by secret ballot in closed polling booths without any interference and pressure on voters. Their names were checked thoroughly with the list, and representatives of four competing parties were also presented as observers. Every assistance was given by the organisers to encourage voting, this included for example medical nurses on stand by, and a supervised children’s nursery for children to use whilst mothers were voting.
General Director of the British charity NGO «The Heaven Wolverhampton» Kath Rees made a media presentation on the outcome of her participation in the elections in Uzbekistan. Its key points:
1) Organisers provided international observers with all necessary materials and legal documents related to the Parliamentary elections, including the Constitution of Uzbekistan, information about the electoral system, political parties, as well as a memo in English and Russian languages.
2) On 20th December 2014, Kath Rees participated in briefing by Mirzo-Ulugbek Abdusalomov, the Chairman of Central Elections Commission, where he noted about the features of the election campaign and changes in legislation launched in order to ensure openness and transparency of the elections.
3) International observers were given the opportunity to choose the region to carry out their mission on election day. Kath Rees decided to stay in Tashkent and visited 5 polling stations.
4) All measures were taken to organize of mobile voting for disabled, aged people and other categories of voters who have not had the opportunity to come to the polling stations. The Central Elections Commission carried out a hotline for requests, complaints and suggestions of citizens in Elections.
5) The platform of media was widely used, including the internet and social media to circulate information about the election programs of political parties and candidates. It was obvious that voters made self-conscious and informed choices. Representatives of polling stations paid a special attention to informing young people, who took part in the elections for the first time, including about their constitutional rights, the electoral process and democratic reforms in Uzbekistan.
6) Particular attention was attracted by the participation of non-governmental organisations in providing quality and transparent elections.
Director of the British cultural NGO «Pro Art» Vesna Petkovic said that during her visit to polling stations in Khiva, she was impressed by the interest of the population, especially young people to participate in the elections. According to her, many people have come early in the morning and by the noon more than 70% of registered voters have already voted. She was also a witness of how the voting were organised with the mobile ballot box for voters who are unable to come to the polling station.
Referring to her conversations with a young people in Khiva, she said that they were well informed about political parties and candidates. Vesna Petkovic also highlighted the cultural component of the election. By her words, creation of a festive atmosphere with music and refreshments helped to attract more voters, including young people, as well as increased the nation-wide significance of the event.
During the discussions, Vice-chairman of the Conservative Association of the City of London and Westminster Botagoz Hopkinson made her remarks. She congratulated Uzbekistan on successful elections and overall achievements in the field of democracy. Referring to the fact that she was born not far from Shymkent (Southern Kazakhstan) and regularly visited Uzbekistan in childhood, she witnesses an enormous progress made by our country since Independence.
Botagoz Hopkinson said that for some western people it is rather difficult to understand the difficulties that Uzbekistan had faced in the early years of Independence, when many things had to be built from scratch for the new country. She stressed that in a historically short period of time of 23 years, Uzbekistan has managed to make a huge jump forward and created necessary conditions for a worthy and happy life for its people.
Opening speech by Ambassador Akbarov
Dr Booth shares his observations
Dr Akiner expresses her view about the elections
Michael Thomas addresses the audience
Presentation by Kath Rees and Elvira Wilson
Bota Hopkinson makes her remarks
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