News ID: 114549
Publish Date : 01 May 2023 - 22:33

Uzbek President Wins Referendum to Stay Until 2040

TASHKENT (Nikkei Asia) -- In Uzbekistan’s constitutional referendum on Sunday, voters overwhelmingly favored sweeping reforms that promise to strengthen individual rights but also allow the president to potentially stay in power until 2040.
The Central Election Commission on Monday said the constitutional amendments passed with 90.21% of the vote, based on preliminary results. Turnout was reported at 84.54%. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which was conducted a “limited observation mission,” was due to share its initial findings on the poll later the same day.
The constitutional changes are the next stage in a reform drive for the Central Asian country of around 35 million people. The shift began after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev came to power in 2016 following the death of his authoritarian predecessor, Islam Karimov. On Mirziyoyev’s watch, economic reforms have been enacted, political prisoners have been set free and once-widespread forced labor in the cotton sector has come to an end.
The constitutional revamp will see around two-thirds of the existing document rewritten, with individual rights given prominence. Public consultations led to more than 60,000 proposals, with around a quarter of the suggestions incorporated into the draft.
Rights to free health care, education, gender equality and decent conditions in the workplace will be enshrined. Property rights will be strengthened, including those for homeowners facing forced evictions. Criminal suspects will be granted the option of remaining silent, and prisoners are promised improved rights as well.
Mirziyoyev had been due to step down in 2026 after serving the allowed two five-year terms. But in the reformed constitution, the term limits will be extended to seven years and the 65-year-old’s term count will be reset to zero. This will enable him able to run twice more and theoretically allow him to stay in power until 2040.
The referendum came almost a year after neighboring Kazakhstan held its own constitutional referendum in response to violent unrest that swept through the country in January 2022, leaving at least 230 dead.
The vote in Kazakhstan saw President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev make a break from the era of his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ruled the country with an iron fist for three decades before handing over the presidency in 2019. Last November, Tokayev was reelected for a single seven-year term.