Uzbekistan Touts Possible Direct Gubernatorial Elections

Barely a day seems to pass these days without Uzbekistan’s President-elect Shavkat Mirziyoyev circulating a fresh initiative smacking of democratization.

The latest proposal from Mirziyoyev, who was elected with a Soviet-style 88 percent of the vote in the December 4 polls, is for regional governors and mayors to be elected directly by the public.

Mirziyoyev outlined his thoughts on the matter during an official event to mark the 24th anniversary of the adoption of the constitution in a speech that was televised in full on the evening of December 7. He cast the proposed reforms as a way to reconnect with the population.

“To defend the interests of the people, you must in the first place talk to the people, and better understand their concerns, aspirations, life problems and needs,” he told his audience. “During recent campaign encounters, I became convinced of one thing: We have late forgotten how to talk to the people. Holding meetings with people, talking to them honestly, listening to their problems has, unfortunately, slipped to the bottom.”

Under the late President Islam Karimov, only the head of state was authorized to appoint and remove governors and mayors. Traditionally, Karimov would travel to attend sessions of regional assemblies to fire and hire officials.

Mirziyoyev’s initiative is theoretically forward-looking, but as the non-competitive nature of this weekend’s presidential election demonstrated, the reality may fall short of expectations.

“Of course, the concept of electiveness sounds good, but to be honest I do not know and I do not understand how it would work in conditions where there is no [political] competition or freedom of speech,” political analyst Rafael Sattarov told

Lack of representation is only part of the problem, Mirziyoyev said, noting that state management system is bogged down by bureaucracy.

“For example, in the last three years, 157 government decrees were issued on the basis of laws that have become redundant,” he said.

Mirziyoyev said the government is drawing up a blueprint for reform to state administration that will be implemented over a five-year period leading up to 2021. Changes will also be effected to the running of the presidential administration and the executive office, the president said, alluding to “On State Service” legislation currently being drafted.

Sattarov noted that Mirziyoyev has repeatedly referred to the catastrophic situation in the training of state service officials.

“We should expect a renewal and reset in the personnel structure. We could expect to see some political actors depart the scene,” Sattarov said.

Uzbekistan currently has 12 provinces, one autonomous region (the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan) and then the city of Tashkent, which has its own government. The regional units are then subdivided into multiple districts and towns.

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