Ashgabat, 6 September 2016 (nCa) — The process of succession is on peaceful course with Shavkat Mirziyaev, currently the prime minister of Uzbekistan, expected to win the presidential elections whenever they take place within the next three months as per Article 96 of the Constitution.
Depending on how the Uzbek lawyers interpret the Constitution, it may be possible to allow Mirziyaev to take oath for the remaining term of Karimov and the elections may be postponed for the interim period.
According to the Constitutional Law of Uzbekistan passed on 23 March 2013, the presidential elections shall be held 90 days after the parliamentary elections. The last parliamentary elections were held in two rounds, where the second round was held on 4 January 2015.
Back then, the term of President Karimov was maturing near the end of the year and the presidential elections would have been held on 27 December 2015. However, his term was shortened by several months to comply with the provision of the Constitutional Law that the presidential elections should be held within 90 days of the parliamentary elections.
The sitting parliament will complete its term in January 2020.
Moreover, Article 92 of the Constitution says: “The President shall be regarded as having assumed office upon taking an oath of the following content at sitting of the Oliy Majlis [parliament] of the Republic of Uzbekistan”
The loophole here is that if the parliament allows a person to take oath of the office of the president, he will be regarded as having assumed the office. This article is silent on whether the person taking oath must have won the presidential elections.
If one were to interpret the Constitution of Uzbekistan (adopted in 1992, last amended in 2011) and the Constitutional Law of Uzbekistan (adopted in 2013) in a particular way, it would be possible to allow Mirziyaev to be the president till the next parliamentary elections in 2020.
This is mere conjecture. The constitutional experts of Uzbekistan may not even be considering this option.
Whatever path is chosen to fill the office of the president, it is clear that the entrenched elite both in the government and business circles will keep their own interests in mind. Their best interests are served by the status quo and that is what Mirziyaev offers because of his pragmatic approach and excellent working relationship with all the power bases.
As far as the legacy of Karimov is concerned, let’s start by defining him as a competent technocrat turned bureaucrat turned politician. Let’s forget for a while all the epithets attached to his name in every news story by the western media.
He was the president of Uzbekistan and his primary job was to maintain peace and stability at home and promote the interests of the country abroad. He delivered on both.
He was dealt a bad hand by Stalin.
The Fergana Valley zigs and zags crazily through Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Much of the turbulence these three countries have seen during the past quarter of a century is traceable, at least in part, to the Fergana Valley.
The clan politics (Fergana, Tashkent and Samarkand clans) was also not the invention of Karimov. He didn’t design the car; he was just the driver.
The parachutist NGOs and other foreign-funded entities that started descending like locusts into Central Asia soon after the break-up of the Soviet Union and meddled wholesale in everything were also not a figment of his imagination. They were the ugly face of the west, bent on imposing the flawed values that have already eaten the roots of their own societies. No one can blame him for being alarmed.
In foreign policy, Karimov maintained a good working balance in his relations with Russia, China and the USA. He had no qualms in joining or leaving any blocs depending on where he saw the current interests of his country going.
In 2015, the bilateral trade balance with China was USD 3.5 billion and with Russia 2.84 billion. China overtook Russia as largest export partner but Karimov was in the process of reducing the lead between China and Russia during the past few months of his life.
This was mainly because of the fact that the remittances of the migrant workers of Uzbekistan in Russia accounted for 12% of GDP in 2013 but had almost collapsed to 5% because of the ongoing Russian recession and sanctions. Karimov wanted to correct that. He succeeded partly as we see in the gas export deal where he managed to replace the Turkmen volumes with those of his own.
He was a strong partner in the global anti-terror drive and he did not allow any extremist ideologies or tendencies to take root on his soil. Even when he was not inclined to allow the continued use of the Khanabad base by the US forces, he facilitated the NDN (northern distribution network) through his territory.
He dealt effectively with the IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) the IJU (Islamic Jihad Union) and Hizb-ul-Tahrir.
Under his captaincy the per capital income in Uzbekistan increased more than 9 times and the economy grew by almost 6 times.
The GDP growth rate has remained around 8% for the last several years and this year, despite heavy pressures of global financial and economic crisis, the GDP is expected to perform above 6%.
During the last five years the Uzbek economy has absorbed USD 67 billion of investments, of which 21% is foreign investment.
The World Bank ranks Uzbekistan among the top ten in terms of improving the business environment. It is among the 14 countries that have been awarded by the FAO for achieving the MDGs in food security.
A number of foreign universities and educational establishments have their branches or collaborations in Uzbekistan. They include Westminster University, Turin Polytechnic University, Singapore Institute of Management Development, Inha University, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russian State University of Economics named after Plekhanov, and the Russian State University of Oil and Gas named after Gubkin.
Of course, there are still a lot of things that could have been done differently.
The stance of Uzbekistan on shared water resources needs urgent review. There is the need to acknowledge the concerns of the neigbouring countries and simultaneously there is the need to introduce measures and technologies to economize water. It would also be helpful to evaluate whether the continued mass cultivation of cotton is in the interests of the country and the region.
The Uzbek government may also like to revisit the issues related to ease of visa regime, the opening of all the current border points and establishing new ones, stable and consistent policy on transport/transit, and better practices in border management.
The rich mosaic that is the legacy of Islam Karimov doesn’t need certificate from anyone.
Concluded. /// nCa