Uzbekistan: Running for president in the race

This is the first election in the history of the Republic of Uzbekistan with six candidates at once running for president. Two candidates have been the all-time record in all sixteen years of sovereignty until now. 


This time, the Central Electoral Commission endorsed the list of five political parties and one spearhead authorized to nominate candidates for president. Each is expected to nominate a candidate, and each will live up to the expectations. Here is political competition for you, here is democracy at its best, here is a bona fide choice… but few if any in Uzbekistan entertain any doubts with regard to the outcome of the presidential race. 


Here is an interview with a free-lancing political scientist who insisted on anonymity. 


Political scientist: Not a single existing political party commands actual respect or wields actual clout with the population. Having at their disposal everything they need to become a full-fledged political force in the country, these political parties lack ideologies of their own. In theory, a political party should be a challenge to the regime and not its servant. After all, it is a political force that is supposed to facilitate invigoration of both the state and its society. 


In theory, candidates for president involved in the forthcoming race are supposed to represent interests of their voters. In fact, however, they can do nothing of the sort. They lack society’s support, you know. 


As I’ve already said, political parties should serve as a counterweight to powers-that-be, they should be self-sufficient and self-supporting political forces. In Uzbekistan, on the other hand, political parties and their structures (newspapers, for example) are financed by the state. The parliament even passed a law on their funding once. What independence, what political programs or struggle for the people’s interests can we expect from them? 


There is one other nuance I’d like to bring up. The way I see it, we have in Uzbekistan all legal and political framework necessary for existence of truly independent political parties. Unfortunately, lack of traditions of a multi-party system and absence of political tolerance and pluralism prevent what political parties we have from becoming truly mass parties. 


Ferghana.Ru: The People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan calls itself party of the opposition. Your opinion? 


Political scientist: Its calling itself the opposition does not make it the opposition, does it? Just take a look at what political forces the People’s Democratic Party is fighting and criticizing. Its activities, functionaries’ statements, and even publications in its press plainly show that it is not the regime the People’s Democratic Party opposes, it is other political parties registered by the Justice Ministry. All its claims concerning the opposition and so on are but a sham. 


Question: And so is the alleged choice to be available in election of the president, right? 


Political scientist: Certain nuances indicate that there exists a certain scenario of the presidential election and that everyone involved is faithfully following the script. For example, all mahallja committees nowadays [local elected bodies – Ferghana.Ru news agency] have been instructed to collect signatures in acting president’s support. The mahallja I live in is expected to come up with no less than 300 signatures. 


The situation being what it is, I’d say it does not take a genius to guess who will be elected. The acting head of state, of course. In other words, waiting for any changes in the foreign or domestic policy is no use. Meanwhile, liberalization of all spheres of life – political one included – is a must. People want changes, but it does not seem as if they were going to get any. 

Question: What do you think of the chances of oppositionist Birlik and Erk? 

Political scientist: The authorities have done everything to compromise them. The population was brainwashed into viewing them as extremist and even terrorist organizations. That is why they do not stand a chance. 


Fahriddin Faiziyev


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