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Will Fresh Faces, More Women In New Uzbek Parliament Make A Difference?


Uzbeks vote in last month's parliamentary elections. Are the turnout figures finally close to accurate?

Uzbekistan has advertised itself as a country undergoing significant changes since Shavkat Mirziyoev took over as the country's leader in late 2016.

"Reform" is one the most common words uttered by Uzbek officials and many outside the country use the same word when speaking about Mirziyoev's government.

The second round of elections to Uzbekistan's 150-seat Oliy Majlis, the lower house of parliament, was held on January 5, with final results the next day giving the full breakdown of seats among the five pro-government parties competing.

The elections promised to be a moment when even the staunchest of supporters of the new government would have to admit there really was not going to be much change.

Same Old, Same Old

The five parties were -- once again -- all supportive of the policies of the president and -- yet again -- all opposition parties and independent candidates from social organizations were barred from competing due to existing legislation.

More important than those aspects, the Uzbek government continues to be dominated by the executive branch.

Parliament has very little power, despite legislation over the years proposed by the president that was intended to strengthen the legislative branch.

The number of seats the five parties received in these latest elections did not differ much from the numbers in the parliament elected in 2014: the Liberal Democratic Party won 53 seats, compared to 52 in the outgoing parliament. Milli Tiklanish (National Revival) won 36 seats, the exact same number it had previously.

The Adolat (Justice) party showed the greatest increase, though even marginal, winning 24 seats, two more than it won in 2014. The People's Democratic Party continued its slow slide, dropping from 27 seats to 22, and the Ecological Party of Uzbekistan successfully won the 15 seats it had previously been allotted by the constitution in the 2009 and 2014 elections, when the party was just a movement.

Fresh, New Faces And...

To start with, most of the incoming deputies appear to be newcomers.

Of the 125 lawmakers' names the Central Election Commission listed after the first round of voting and the 25 names listed after the second round of voting, only 38 matched the names of deputies in the outgoing parliament, according to the parliament's official website.

For some reason, the parliament's website only lists 113 deputies in the outgoing parliament, but it can be stated with certainly that more than half the deputies in the next parliament will be new.

Moreover, the lawmakers in the incoming parliament are younger.

According to figures from the Central Election Commission, 64.7 percent of the newly elected deputies are between 30 and 50 years of age and 6 percent are younger than 30.

Of the 113 deputies from the outgoing parliament whose ages were given on the parliament's website, 48 of them were at least 50 years old.

It is worth noting that the oldest deputy in the incoming parliament is 71-year-old Safar Ostonov, who is the chief editor at Uzbekiston Ovozi -- Golos Uzbekistana and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, as is the youngest new deputy, 26-year-old Sherzod Rahmonov.

Will a younger, more female Oliy Majlis make a difference?
Will a younger, more female Oliy Majlis make a difference?

...More Women

Women finally reached the 30 percent quota of seats that has long been constitutionally promised them, but never realized.

The outgoing parliament had 24 female deputies, the incoming parliament will have 48, a full 100 percent increase.

One last detail that represents something new is the official voter turnout.

Official voter turnout in the 1994 parliamentary elections was 93.6 percent. In 1999 it was reported to be 93.46 percent, in 2004 it was 85.1 percent, in 2009 it was 87.8 percent in the first round (second round 79.7 percent), and in 2014 it was 88.94 percent in the first round (second round 76.93 percent).

Official turnout for the first round of these latest elections was 74.3 percent (second round 62.6 percent), numbers that are perhaps more realistic relative to actual voter turnout when compared with the numbers officially given during the rule of Mirziyoev's predecessor, authoritarian Islam Karimov.

It is difficult to judge if the mere appearance of new, younger, faces and more women can be regarded as genuine change, but it interesting to think that the gender quota has finally been realized and, if the average age of a deputy is 46.4 years old, as the Central Election Commission claims, that would mean the average-age deputy was a teenager when the Soviet Union disintegrated.

The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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