Referendum in Uzbekistan to allow President to govern until 2040 | Asia

The former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan announced this Wednesday the holding of a constitutional referendum, at the end of April, which could allow the current President, Shavkat Mirziioiev, to remain in power until 2040.

The proposed revision of the Uzbek constitution, published this Tuesday, proposes extending the presidential term from five to seven years and indicates that people who already hold positions “have the right to run […] regardless of the number of consecutive terms” already exercised.

The new Constitution, which modifies two-thirds of the current fundamental law, but maintains the limitation to two consecutive terms, will be submitted to a referendum on April 30 in Central Asia’s most populous country, with around 35 million inhabitants.

Arriving in power in 2016, Mirziioiev was re-elected for five years with more than 80% of the votes in October 2021, after a vote in which no real opponent could run, according to international observers.

If approved, the constitutional revision will allow Mirziioiev, 65, to run in 2026 and, if re-elected, remain in power until 2033, or until 2040 in case of a new re-election.

Mirziioyev, who was prime minister for 13 years, became head of state after the death of his predecessor, Islam Karimov, who ruled for 27 years.

Validated almost unanimously by the two chambers of Parliament, the draft revision also intends to make Uzbekistan a “social state” where “the human being, his life, his freedom, his honor and his dignity are the supreme values” .

The constitutional change that was intended to reduce the autonomy of the republic of Karakalpakstan, a desert region of Uzbekistan and one of the poorest in the country, was abandoned.

The proposal to reduce autonomy led to demonstrations in Karakalpakstan on 1 and 2 July 2022, whose repression officially caused the death of 21 people. Authorities also imposed a state of emergency and blocked internet access in the region.

Uzbekistan ranks 149 on the magazine’s “Democracy Index” Economist (2022), which integrates a total of 167 countries, being considered an authoritarian regime. In the last year, the country has moved up one position in the index.

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