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Home / Other / Elections-2016 / Presidential elections illustrate democratic trans...

Presidential elections illustrate democratic transformations and reforms

Preparations for the upcoming presidential elections in our country has entered into an active phase. Reporter talked to the chairman of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan Mirzoulugbek Abdusalomov on the significance of the elections for the future development of our country, on the amendments, made to the electoral legislation, as well as on the preparations for the elections.

- The untimely death of the founder of our independence, the First President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov has become a heavy loss for the all our people, - said M. Abdusalomov. - Islam Karimov was elected a leader of Uzbekistan in a very difficult time, when the country was on the brink of the abyss, the sharp socio-economic problems intensified discontent in society. Thanks to a wise policy, strategic vision, ability to foresee the situation on many steps forward to take fully considered and informed decisions, our great head of state, not only prevented further aggravation of the situation, but also achieved the independence of our Motherland and led our nation on the path of independent development. Under the leadership of the First President, Uzbekistan has achieved tremendous successes in building a democratic state with a socially oriented market economy, a strong civil society, a steady increase of well-being, quality and standard of living. The country has taken a worthy place in the world community.

Islam Karimov was the principal author of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the initiator of the development and adoption of the set of laws that determined the legal basis of the processes of renovation and modernization of our country. Creation of Uzbekistan’s electoral system and legislation in full compliance with democratic principles, is also directly linked to the name and efforts of our First President.

Important democratic principles, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments, ratified by Uzbekistan, constitute the basis of the electoral legislation of our country. In this regard, many foreign independent experts underline that in terms of compliance with democratic norms, the Uzbek legislation exceeds the relevant legislation in many developed countries in the world.

The democratic election legislation, instituted in our country, provides a solid legal basis for the presidential elections, parliamentary elections and elections to the local councils of people's deputies.

In accordance with Articles 96, 117 of the Constitution and Article 8 of the Law "On elections of the President of Uzbekistan", Articles 5 and 9 of the Law "On the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan", the Central Election Commission set 4 December 2016 as the day of elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and announced the start of the election campaign from September 9 this year.

It should be noted that the institution of the presidency plays a key role in public administration system of Uzbekistan. This institution, founded by Islam Karimov at a time when our country was part of the former totalitarian regime, was an important step towards achieving independence.

As enshrined in the Constitution, the President is a Head of State and ensures the concerted functioning and interaction of public administration bodies. The President acts as the guarantor for compliance with rights and freedoms, the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The current stage of development of our country raises very important tasks before us. We must define our future strategy and priorities on preserving and further strengthening the peace and tranquility, civil and interfaith harmony, mutual respect, the stable development of the social and economic spheres in our country, the consistent improvement of the welfare of the people and in the end –turning into one of the most developed countries of the world.

Therefore, the upcoming December 4 presidential elections are a socio-political event of great importance for the life of our country and people.

In this regard, preparation and holding of elections at the highest organizational, legal and logistical level, in full compliance with the democratic principles of transparency, openness and fairness enshrined in national electoral laws, have a particular significance. And for that, all the necessary conditions have been created in our country.

- Please tell us more about the legal basis, ensuring the holding of presidential elections in line with democratic principles.

- The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, obviously, is the main instrument for the functioning of the national electoral system and democratic development of all spheres of our society. In particular, the Constitution states that the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan is elected by the citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage in secret ballot. A number of laws, regulating the process of presidential elections, have been adopted In the years of independence. The laws "On elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan", "On guarantees of electoral rights of citizens", "On the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan" and other legislative acts are among them.

The normative-legal acts, adopted in this sphere, are aimed at unconditional respect for electoral rights of citizens, creating necessary conditions for a free participation of voters in elections, broad and equal opportunities for political parties and presidential candidates during the election campaign in accordance with the principles of fairness, openness and transparency.

The most important feature of the national electoral system is a functioning an independent system of election commissions under the supervision of the Central Election Commission, which ensure organization and conduct of elections in accordance with the requirements of the law.

- What amendments have been made to the electoral law in recent years?

- The electoral law has consistently improved in the light of experience of our country on holding democratic elections and law enforcement. The 2014 elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, regional, district and city councils of people's deputies, as well as the 2015 presidential elections demonstrated that the work, carried out on the development of a democratic electoral system, yields results.

In accordance with the Concept of further deepening democratic reforms and formation of civil society in the country, the norms on fuller realization of the principle of freedom of choice in the electoral legislation have been made. This allowed to increase the efficiency of providing equal conditions for political parties and the nominated candidates in the course of the election campaign, to improve legal mechanisms for ensuring transparency of elections.

The amendments to the Law "On elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan" after 2015 presidential elections played a significant role. The Law eases participation of political parties in elections. That is, the subscription lists, presented by a political party, shall contain the signatures of at least one percent of the total number of voters of the Republic of Uzbekistan, representing not less than 8 administrative-territorial formations. Previously it required to submit the signatures of at least five percent of voters.

The rules on the voting procedure have been improved, which created more favorable conditions to liberalize elections, to ensure their transparency, free and independent will of citizens.

The norm about the inadmissibility of campaigning on election day and the day before the vote, which also exists in the legislation of developed countries, has been included in our legislation. This creates additional opportunities for voters so that they decide on their political preferences, make an informed decision about how to vote for any political agenda. Also it will prevent various abuses and violations of the law on the day before the vote.

Some citizens in connection with the holiday, travel or training schedule, as well as for legitimate reasons relating to the implementation of state and public duties, health status, may not be available at the place of residence on election day. For the implementation of early voting, the voter shall confirm their lack with appropriate documents.

The procedure for early voting is set out in Article 31 of the Law "On elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan". Early voting begins 10 days before an election day and ends the day before the election. The timing of early voting is determined by the district election commission and shall be brought to the attention of voters, observers, representatives of mass media.

It is also worth noting that the laws "On elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan", "On elections to regional, district and city councils of people's deputies" have been amended concerning the possibility of the formation of polling stations in places of detention for persons, who have not been court decisions yet. This practice has been successfully tested in the elections to the Legislative Chamber and, in accordance with the decision of the Central Election Commission, in the presidential elections in 2015.

Based on the latest changes and amendments to the electoral law, more than ten regulations and instructions of the Central Election Commission were revised.

The Central Election Commission has updated the documents, specifying the procedure for drawing up electoral lists, regulating nomination procedures and verification of collected signatures in their support, the organization of pre-election agitation and campaign financing, complaints and appeals, as well as questions about the rights and duties of observers. The law "On elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan" and "On elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan" states that mandates for observers from other states and international organizations are issued by the Central Election Commission.

- How is the preparation for the elections taking place?

- The activity of election commissions at all levels and activities, carried out at all stages of the electoral process, are conducted on the basis of the program of basic measures on preparation and holding presidentail elections, developed on the basis of relevant laws and legislation. The necessary conditions are created to organize the election campaign on a high democratic level, to ensure efficient operation of district and precinct election commissions, the full realization of the rights of participants in the electoral process.

14 constituencies have been formed within the Republic of Karakalpakstan, regions and Tashkent city formed for the election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The regional election commissions established 9378 polling stations. 44 polling stations have been formed at the missions of our country abroad. Precinct election commissions, consisting of over 98 thousand people, have been formed. 56 women are members of the regional election commissions, 12 of whom are in top leadership positions. Women make up 47.4 per cent of the composition of precinct election commissions and 26.7 per cent of chairpersons.

The district and precinct election commissions are located in modern premises with all necessary conditions and fully provided with transport, information and communication technologies, means of communication, including Internet access.

In order to create favorable conditions for voting of citizens with disabilities, each polling station is equipped with a ramp for wheelchairs. In addition, one of the voting booths will be adapted for people with disabilities. Various brochures on electoral matters have been prepared in Braille for the blind. The first special ballots will be prepared for them. All this is done taking into account that persons with disabilities are full members of society.

As is known, the effective organization of activity of precinct election commissions is one of the important conditions for quality of the election campaign. Therefore, we take even more responsible approach to the preparation of polling stations, raising legal awareness of members of precinct election commissions. A three-stage program of training seminars, aimed at the efficient organization of the work of district election commissions, have been developed.

- Currently one of the most important stages of the election process - an election campaign is underway.Please tell us about this process.

- The election campaign has an important place in the election processes. In all democratic countries, including in our country, it is emphasized. It enables candidates to familiarize voters with their election programs. The Law "On introducing amendments and addenda to some legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan", adopted on 29 December 2015, was a logical continuation of work on improving the election legislation. The law defines in detail the types, forms and methods of the election campaign, the requirements for conducting pre-election campaign in mass media, including the requirement that the information disseminated in the media must be true and not infringe the rights and legitimate interests of the presidential candidates and political parties.

The law stipulates that the printed, visual, audiovisual and other campaign materials must contain the quantity, the date of release of campaign materials and other information. The materials of pre-election campaign, previously placed on buildings, structures and other places, are to be taken by local public authorities on the day before the elections.

The election processes, including election campaign, are carried out in full compliance with the laws of our country and program of basic measures on preparation and holding of elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, approved by the CEC.

Given the demands and proposals of the political parties, each candidate is offered free of charge 638 minutes of airtime on "Uzbekistan" and "Yoshlar" TV and radio channels of the National TV and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, 206 minutes on 12 local TV and radio channels, 286 minutes on "Tashkent" TV and radio channel. The candidates are also provided print space on "Xalq so’zi", “Narodnoe slovo” and “Pravda Vostoka” newspapers, on 30 local newspapers.

Particular attention is paid to creating conditions for citizens of different nationalities to become familiar with the election materials. Candidates for President of the Republic of Uzbekistan provided free printing space on "Ovozi Tojik", "Ovozi Samarkand" newspapers, published in the Tajik language, and in the "Nurly Zhol" newspaper in the Kazakh language. In general, information on the election campaign shall be published in the media in our country in 17 languages.

The presidential candidates independently determine the types, forms, methods and content of materials of pre-election campaign in the media.

It should be noted that the principle of creating during the election campaign a level playing field does not apply to the party press, which has the right to publish relevant material in any amount.

The district election commissions strictly monitor compliance with the principle of a level playing field.

- What measures are taken by election commissions to ensure openness and transparency of the electoral process?

- The organization of democratic elections in our country is based on the fact that the only secret is voting, all other processes are open, public and transparent. In accordance with the Law "On elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan" election commissions inform citizens about their efforts to the preparation and conduct of elections of activities, the formation of election commissions, their location and hours of operation, voter lists, the list of political parties, participating in the elections, information on candidates for President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, on the results of voting and elections.

At all events concerning the preparations and conduct of elections, as well as in polling stations on election day and vote counting at each polling station, one observer from each political party, as well as representatives of the press, television and radio, observers from other states, international organizations and movements have a right to take part.

The media play an important role in ensuring the openness and transparency of the electoral process. For the purpose of comprehensive and objective coverage of the election campaign in 2016, the CEC concluded bilateral agreements with the National TV and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan National News Agency, Information Agency "Jahon», «Uzreport», the National Association of Electronic Mass Media.

The Republican press center for coverage of the presidential elections, as well as similar press centers at the regional election commissions have been established. The Central Election Commission accredited over 500 representatives of domestic and foreign media, the district election commissions -. almost 560 local journalists

The web site of the Central Election Commission www.elections.uz provide information about all the decisions, regulations and Commission statement, news and information related to the election campaign in Uzbek, Russian and English.

In order to prevent violations of the law during the preparation and conduct of elections, as well as the establishment of a permanent connection with the district and precinct election commissions non-stop "hotline" in the Central election Commission (0371 239-35-62), fax (0371 239-42-43) and email (ub_saylov@umail.uz) have been operating at the CEC since 1 November 2016.

The Central Election Commission has sent an invitation to Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the CIS Executive Committee, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the World Association of electoral bodies and other authoritative international structures to take part in monitoring the presidential elections of the Republic of Uzbekistan. They expressed their willingness to participate in this process.

A core group of OSCE ODIHR Observation Mission for the elections has arrived and began its activities in our country. The ODIHR, on it’s official web-site, published a report following a visit to Uzbekistan by experts on Needs Assessment Mission. It positively evaluated the latest changes, made to the legislation of our country, improvements of regulations and instructions, carried out by the CEC. According to the report, taking into account the readiness of Uzbekistan to conduct the upcoming elections in accordance with international standards, it decided to send a full observation mission for the elections.

The mission, along with the core group, will consist of 20 long-term observers and 250 short-term observers, who will monitor on polling stations on election day.

Election of the President of Uzbekistan are extremely important socio-political event, especially at the present stage of development of our country. The future of the homeland, its future prosperity depend on the activity, political maturity of all participants in the election and, ultimately, the choices made by voters. 
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