Uzbekistan’s Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed that presidential elections in the country will be held on 29 March, 2015, in accordance with the new constitutional law on presidential elections that was approved by the Senate in 2012.
The new law required presidential elections to be held 90 days after parliamentary elections. The two rounds of elections to the lower house of Uzbek Parliament were held on 21 December and 4 January 2015, with some 18.5 million people or 89 percent of registered voters taking part in those polls.
The new presidential election law also changed the tenure of the president from the current seven to five years.
The law change shortened the term of incumbent President Islam Karimov by nine months, as under the previous law, the elections would have been held only on 27 December 2015.
In order to use their right to nominate a candidate, all political parties must be registered with the Ministry of Justice no later than six months prior to the date of the announcement of their election campaign. Following on from the plenums of the parties, all four political parties have submitted the necessary documents to the Central Election Commission.
Accordingly the members of the Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businesspeople of the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, the National Revival Democratic Party of Uzbekistan and the Justice Social Democratic Party have submitted a package of necessary documents to the Central Election Commission, in order to participate in the presidential elections, i.e. the requests to participate in the elections that were signed by the leaders of the parties, the certificates of the Ministry of Justice with information about the registration of political parties and an information paper about the future presidential candidate.
During the regular meeting of the CEC, on the basis of the submitted documents it was decided to approve the admission of political parties to participate in the presidential elections in Uzbekistan.
Earlier at its meetings, the CEC also decided to form electoral districts, to approve the personal staff of the district election commissions of the Presidential elections. The members of these commissions which consist of eminent members of the public, have been previously discussed in the meetings of Jokargy Kenes of Karakalpakstan, regional and Tashkent city councils of people’s deputies, held on January 13-14 this year, and were recommended for approval by the CEC.
As such, there are now four confirmed candidates for the 2015 presidential elections. Islam Karimov of the Liberal Democratic Party, and incumbent president since 1990, is being challenged by Hatamjon Ketmonov of the People's Democratic Party, Nariman Umarov of the Justice Social Democratic Party and Akmal Saidov of the National Revival Democratic Party.
With little over a month to go before the presidential election, the campaign is picking up steam with political parties vying with one another to ensure the success of their nominated candidates.
Political parties of the country have actively started to collect signatures in support of the nominated candidates - each must collect at least five percent of the total number of voters in the country (more than 1 million signatures), representing at least eight administrative-territorial formations.
In one of the administrative-territorial entities (Republic of Karakalpakstan, regions, Tashkent) a political party cannot collect more than eight percent of the signatures of the total. Also in this case, the voters have the right to sign once in support of only one candidate.
Other interesting specifics about the democratic process and parliamentary life in Uzbekistan include the fact that the country had the highest voting age in the world, at 25, which has now been reduced to18.
The 150-member bicameral Supreme Assembly (Oliy Majlis) comprises the Legislative Chamber and the Senate, with each member elected to a five-year term. The Oliy Majlis has 150 members in the Legislative Chamber and 100 members in the Senate — 84 members elected at the sessions of district, regional and city deputies, and 16 members appointed by the president.
The number of seats in the lower house of Uzbekistan's bicameral parliament was increased in December 2008 from 120 to 150, with 15 seats reserved for election by the country's Ecological Movement.
According to the Uzbekistan’s Election Commission, in the last parliamentary elections the following parties were allowed to take part: Adolat (Social-Democratic Party of Uzbekistan) with 123 candidates, Milliy Tiklanish (Democratic Party of Uzbekistan) with 125 candidates, the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDP) with 134 candidates, the Liberal-Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (UzLiDeP) with 135 candidates, and the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan.
The candidate who gets a simple majority of votes cast by the electorate who came to the polls is considered elected to the parliament. If no candidate gains a simple majority a second round run-off election is held between the main contenders.
At least 33 percent of the registered voters should vote to make this second round of the elections valid. The election was monitored by over 270 observers from 36 countries and representatives of four international missions.
Another interesting fact about Uzbekistan is that it began its transition from being a part of the former Soviet Union to a sovereign country only in 1991. Following the disintegration of the former USSR, Uzbekistan emerged from more than a century of Russian rule — first as part of the Russian Empire and then as a component of the Soviet Union — as an independent entity.
Since becoming an independent nation, Uzbekistan has worked steadily to reform its state-controlled economy into a more market-based economy. Ties with the West began improving since 2008, spurred on by Europeans' search for alternative energy sources in Central Asia and Uzbekistan's strategic importance to the United States and NATO for their anti-Taliban operation in Afghanistan.
Positioned on the ancient Great Silk Road between Europe and Asia, the majestic cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, famed for their architectural opulence, once flourished as trade and cultural centers of Uzbekistan for centuries. Uzbekistan is the most populous Central Asian country and has the largest armed forces in the region.