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What's On The Uzbek President's Mind?

Uzbek President Islam Karimov says that the changes he is making are the "usual practice in democratic states."
Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov addressed a joint session of his country's parliament on November 12 and proposed some interesting and unexpected changes to the constitution involving the selection of prime minister and who would take Karimov's place.

Karimov has appointed all three of the country's prime ministers (including current Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev). But he suggested it should be the party with the most seats in parliament that nominates a candidate for the post. That currently is the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, the youngest of Uzbekistan's four registered (all pro-presidential) parties, founded in 2003. Parliament would also initiate the dismissal of the prime minister.

But Karimov would still have the final (and probably the initial) say on the nominee for prime minister -- and their dismissal, if needed.

Speaking about the new process of selecting a prime minister, President Karimov curiously said he wanted to rid the country of brutal people.

More interesting were the Uzbek president's comments about Article 96 of the constitution, which deals with succession in the even that the president dies or is unable to perform the duties of head of state. As the constitution reads now, the task of replacing Karimov falls to parliament, which must meet in a joint session within 10 days after the president is declared unfit to serve (or dies) and "shall elect an acting president of the Republic of Uzbekistan from among its deputies, senators for the term up to three months." Elections would be held after three months.

Karimov advised changing that article and giving the task to the chairman of the Senate (upper house of parliament), currently the relatively unknown Ilgizar Sobirov. Those frantically searching for information about Sobirov have been disappointed since there is very little about him.

Karimov reasoned that "this is a usual practice in democratic states." "Democracy" is not a word many international rights organizations use when referring to Uzbekistan. But, Karimov hinted the changes he wants will be as great an event for Uzbekistan as independence was in 1991.

That Karimov even mentioned the succession process was news, as it is practically a forbidden topic in Uzbekistan. However, the aging president will turn 73 in January of next year, so such preparations are likely to be on his mind. Karimov also mentioned another taboo topic in his speech to parliament -- clans. Karimov said he didn't "want to leave chaos, as I know there is a medieval tendency of clannish behavior" still present in Uzbekistan. So, it appears change is on the way in Karimov's country, though for now only the Uzbek president knows how much and who will be affected.

Karimov did not mention how soon he wanted deputies to adopt his proposed changes, however, December 8 is Constitution Day, making that as likely a date as any. As for Prime Minister Mirziyaev, December is also the month when the previous two prime ministers were appointed.

-- Bruce Pannier