Uzbekistan has been constantly moving towards building a democratic state and strong civil society during the years of independence. The system of organizational and legal safeguards is formed to ensure the participation of citizens in public administration, the independent decision of local issues through the unique institution of mahalla.
As the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov emphasized: “Self-government bodies - our future. If we want to build civil society, these bodies are the foundation of its bases. Today we began to lay these foundations... Civil society is self-government. This is its first and fundamental principle”.
Today, broad legal conditions for mahallas’ full activity are established. Thus, article 32 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan fixed the norm that citizens have the right to participate in managing the affairs of state and society, bîth directly and through their representatives. The participation, along with the democratic formation of state bodies, as well as the development and improvement of public control over their activities is carried out by governments. Article 105 of the Main Law, in turn, reflects the institutional framework of citizens’ self-government. According to its provisions, they are gatherings of citizens, elected for 2.5 years chairman (aksakal) and his advisers, in the townships, kishlaks and auls, as well as in the communities of cities, towns, settlements and villages.
Many functions, previously conducted by the state authorities and management bodies have been gradually transferred to mahallas over the past years. They make an effective contribution to the implementation of government programs on addressing social support to the population, development of private entrepreneurship and family business, improving citizens’ welfare through the promotion of their employment, strengthening the basic unit of society, education of harmoniously developed generation.
The commissions at mahallas play huge role in addressing the challenges facing them. Their functions include working with women, youth and minors, organizing sports events, public control, consumer protection, security and others. All commissions are independent in their activities and accountable only to the citizens gathering.
The Concept of further deepening the democratic reforms and establishing the civil society in the country, put forward by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in 2010, is a radically new stage in the improvement of organizational and legal framework for mahalla. It provides the introduction of changes and amendments to the laws “On citizens’ self-government bodies” and “On the elections of the chairman (aksakal), citizens’ gathering and his advisers”.
Within the framework of the Concept’s implimentation in 2013, these documents were approved in new edition. Innovations served to further expand mahalla’s functions, including its transformation into a center of the population’s and small business development’s targeted social support in the regions, strengthening the role of self-government in the system of public control over the state bodies’ activity. Measures to further improve the electoral system of aksakals, which ensures the election of the chairmen and their advisers the most deserving citizens, were also determined in the law’s new edition.
On the basis of the Constitution and the above mentioned legislation, Kengash of the Senate of Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution “On preparation and conduct of elections of chairmen (aksakals) of citizens’ gathering and their advisers” on March 5 this year. According to the document, May-June 2016 is defined as the election period in mahallas. It is expected that 9764 of aksakals and over 99 thousands of their advisers will be elected by their results. The Action plan on organization and holding of the important event is approved and implemented.
A special committee to assist the holding of elections, organized on the territory of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, all regions, the capital, districts and cities play a significant role in the process. Commission is acting during the vote’s organization and holding, and will cease to exist after the announcement of its results. The commission, as a rule, includes representatives of mahallas, state bodies and public organizations. It should be emphasized that the commissions are given broad powers. Thus, they enforce the laws on elections, coordinate the activities structures, involved in the conduct of the upcoming event, and take from them the documents on candidates. Particular attention is paid to the explanatory work among the population, in the case of receipt of citizens’ complaints about certain aspects of voting, the commission provide them with complete information.
At the same time, 9764 working group on preparation and holding of elections in mahallas are created throughout the country. They determine the date, time and place of citizens’ gathering, establish the voting day and report it to the relevant committee. The electoral process is conducted in rooms with all conditions.
The working group will organize general meetings of residents of households, houses, streets and mahallas to elect the representatives of the citizens, which are the most important stage of the elections. It also conducts explanatory work among the population, studies voter opinions to prepare proposals on candidates for these important positions.
The practice of the past years shows that the election of citizens’ gatherings’ assets have become into a genuine democracy school, raising legal awareness, political and legal culture of the population. There is no doubt that the next vote for of aksakals and their advisers will be held at the highest institutional level, and its results will serve to further strengthen the mahalla’s position in system of civil society institutions, the consistent implementation of principle “From a strong state - to a strong civil society”.