Will Uzbekistan Get a New President in 2007?

by Nathan Hamm on 1/12/2007 · 1 comment

unkarim.jpgAccording to Uzbekistan’s constitution, Islam Karimov has overstayed his presidential mandate by three days as of today. But, according to legislation, a new president is not to be elected until December. Ben Paarmann discussed the disharmony between the constitution and parliamentary decisions at neweurasia Uzbekistan the other day, and he speculated that Karimov is most likely to propose a referendum to extend his term, with a constitutional amendment allowing him to run for a new term being another possibility.

For those interested in seeing what the constitution says (in English, anyway), here is the appropriate section of Uzbekistan’s constitution. Taken together, the sections on the Oliy Majlis and the President are sufficiently ambiguous to make now or December the right time for a vote. On the one hand, the presidential mandate expires after a certain amount of time. On the other, the Oliy Majlis decides the date for a vote after the expiration of the mandate. Seems they could set it for 2050 if they so wished.

And inspires confusion this ambiguity does. UzNews.net reports that Jahongir Shosalimov, a human rights activist who plans to run for president, believes Karimov’s term ends on January 22 because that is when he was sworn in. Shosalimov has sought an explanation from the Electoral Commission who referred him to the Constitutional Court. He seems to know that Karimov is going to get his roughly 50 bonus weeks in office, and he says that he thinks both the president and those in government are well aware that Karimov is overstaying his term.

It is safe to assume that by hook or crook, Karimov will still be president in January of 2008 short of his death or a coup. Ismat Diamatov of UzNews.net in an article on the upcomng referendum on party reform predicts that Karimov’s candidacy will be put forward in September after a constitutional amendment to remove the two consecutive term limit. ICG’s Michael Hall is sure Karimov will stand for reelection, and he thinks that he may not even bother with amending the constitution. The only thing he sees stopping Karimov from running again is a coup.

Hall also brings up the foreign relations element of the election.

Hall also said that the international community might in silence or with limited criticism accept another extension of Karimov’s presidential powers.

“There are some countries in Europe which are seeking an excuse to declare Uzbekistan their ally again,” Hall said. “Karimov will make a number of little concessions, and these countries will be happy to declare Uzbekistan even a democratic country.”

What one sees from certain European governments in their relations with Uzbekistan perhaps could be called eagerness. But Uzbekistan’s government has shown something of an eagerness as well, and it has been making small gestures to try to satisfy its lukewarm backers in Europe who need some kind of positive movement to convince the rest of Europe to come along. Given that, and that simply running for office again with no constitutional change or a term extension by the legislature both look bad, I expect that the constitution will be amended to allow for Karimov to run again in December.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Lena January 17, 2007 at 1:25 pm

For people outside the country it is easy to point this out but Uzbek people are too afraid to say anything. To us it is clear he will stay in power until he dies. Karimov’s people are spreading rumor on the streets to prepare us that he will stay in power.

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