The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan contains a number of provisions that emphasize the principle of democracy, as well as ways of exercising power by the people, as a manifestation of direct democracy. In accordance with Article 2 of the Constitution, the state expresses the will of the people, serves their interests. Article 7 defines the people as the sole source of state power. Moreover, in accordance with this article, state power in the Republic of Uzbekistan is exercised in the interests of the people and exclusively by bodies authorized for this by the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the legislation adopted on its basis. The main forms of manifestation of direct democracy are defined in Art. 32 of the Constitution, according to which citizens have the right to participate in the management of the affairs of society and the state both directly and through their representatives. Such participation is carried out by means of self-government, holding referendums and the democratic formation of state bodies.
Democracy is one of the fundamental principles of international law. Thus, Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that the will of the people should be the basis of the power of government. It finds its expression in periodic and genuine elections, which must be held with universal and equal electoral right, by secret voting or through other equivalent forms that ensure the freedom of voting.
In this way, direct democracy in Uzbekistan manifests itself in periodic elections held in the country, and allows for the direct participation of citizens in the formation of the public power system.
The constitutional basis for holding elections is defined in article 117 of Chapter 23 of the Constitution, devoted to electoral law issues. It enshrines the basic principles of exercising the electoral rights of citizens: equality, freedom of expression, universal, equal and direct electoral right by secret voting. These principles are proclaimed in such generally recognized international acts as: Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, UN Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation of 2005, Convention on the Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms in the CIS member states of 2002, etc.
Thereby, the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan has defined several fundamental principles of holding elections, which are an integral part of modern democracy, namely:
First. The Constitution establishes the principle of equal electoral right, which provides for the possibility of a voter to have only one vote, which is equal to the vote of any other voter.
Second. Voters vote in elections for or against candidates directly. Direct elections allow citizens, without any intermediaries, to vote for the person they know and whom they fully trust to govern their country.
Third. The article establishes universal electoral right, i.e. the right under which all adult citizens, regardless of origin, social and property status, race and nationality, gender, education, language, attitude to religion, type and nature of occupation, have the right to take part in elections.
Fourth. The principle of secret voting, established in the Constitution, means the prohibition of any control over voting, exerting pressure on the implementation of voting or refusing it. A citizen has a guaranteed right to never inform anyone about his choice. The national electoral legislation defines the provision of the necessary conditions to ensure the secrecy of voting.
The norms and principles of the Constitution, reflecting the necessary elements of holding direct elections, as well as the mechanisms and means of implementing these principles are enshrined in the national electoral legislation.
Currently, the electoral rights of citizens and the procedure for their implementation are determined by the Electoral code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, adopted in 2019. The adoption of the code consolidated the mechanisms for the practical implementation of active electoral right and freedom of expression of the will of citizens in accordance with international standards, defined in the fundamental international acts on human rights.
The system of local self-government of Uzbekistan, the foundations of which are laid down by the Constitution, is also built on the principles of direct democracy through elections. In article 105 of the Basic law, self-government bodies in settlements, villages and auls, as well as in mahallas of cities, settlements, villages and auls, define gatherings of citizens who elect a chairman (aksakal). The legal mechanism for organizing and conducting elections of citizens’ self-government bodies is established in the law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On the election of the chairman (aksakal) of the gathering of citizens.
Another form of direct democracy in Uzbekistan, enshrined in the Constitution, is a referendum. By expressing their opinion, their position during the nationwide discussion and at the referendum, citizens exercise their right to participate in the governance of the state. In accordance with article 9 of the Constitution of Uzbekistan, the most important issues of public and state life are put to a general vote (referendum).
The first law “On the referendum of the Republic of Uzbekistan” was adopted before the adoption of the Constitution in 1991. The law established that decisions adopted by a referendum have the highest legal force on the territory of the Republic of Uzbekistan and can be canceled or changed only by a referendum. Subsequently, in 2001, the law “On the referendum of the Republic of Uzbekistan” was adopted in a new edition. This law defines the basic principles and procedure for holding a referendum, issues that cannot be the subject of a referendum. The right of initiative to hold a referendum in a number of higher state bodies also belongs to citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Every citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan who has reached the age of eighteen by the day or on the day of the referendum has the right to participate in the referendum. Voting in a referendum is always secret, the procedure or holding it is similar to elections.
Uzbekistan has its own experience of holding referendums. It was held three times in the Republic of Uzbekistan: December 29, 1991, March 26, 1995, and January 27, 2002. The last referendum was related to issues concerning amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan. According to the results of a national referendum in 2003, the Constitution was amended, according to which the unicameral Oliy Majlis was transformed into a bicameral parliament, and a single day for holding elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan was established, other representative authorities – on the first Sunday of the third decade of December in the year of the expiration of their powers. During the time of the unicameral parliament, it had the right to set the election date. In accordance with the amendments to the Constitution, this date cannot be set at the discretion, by the decision of any body. The date of the elections is determined in the Constitution itself and can be changed in exceptional cases only by adopting a corresponding constitutional law.
As it is known, this right was exercised in 2021, with the adoption of the law “On amendments and additions to certain legislative acts in connection with the improvement of electoral legislation”. In accordance with this law, the presidential elections in Uzbekistan rescheduled from December to October 2021.
The institution of nationwide discussion of drafts of laws, as a manifestation of elements of direct democracy, is firmly established in the national norm-making practice. It consists in the opportunity of people’s participation in the consideration of the texts of drafts of legislative and other regulatory legal acts, which allow citizens to express their position on certain provisions or the project as a whole, which contributes to improving the content of the project. The first legislative act adopted on the basis of a nationwide discussion was the draft of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan. On September 26, 1992, it was published in the mass media. Until the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the constitutional commission received about six thousand proposals from our fellow citizens. Taking into account the received proposals, the text of the draft was significantly improved and became the subject of nationwide discussion again on November 21, 1992.
The constitutional right of nationwide discussion of draft laws is enshrined in the law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On nationwide discussion of draft laws”, which determined the legal mechanisms for conducting nationwide discussion.
The formation and development of digital communication technologies was marked by the intensive formation of the so-called electronic discussion platforms, which made it possible to improve and significantly simplify the participation of the population in the discussion of the most important issues of public administration. It was in this format that the draft Strategy for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021 was submitted for national discussion, a program document that defined a new stage of socio-political, socio-economic development of the country. The strategy of action was widely discussed at meetings with the population of the regions, round tables, television, radio and the press. Suggestions and recommendations of the population on the draft Strategy were accepted online on the website “strategy.regulation.gov.uz”.
Every year, the government submits for public discussion a draft of state budget and state programs for the implementation of the Action Strategy for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021 for the coming year. Draft of state budgets for the last five years also reflect the main directions of tax and budget policy provided for by the Action Strategy for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021. For example, the main directions and indicators of macroeconomic policy for 2021 are formed based on forecasts of the presence of conditions of the coronavirus pandemic this year.
Now, there is an open electronic platform in Uzbekistan on the portal for discussing drafts of regulatory legal acts (regulation.gov.uz), which provides, among other tasks, the introduction of mechanisms for interaction with the public, the business community, academia and civil society institutions, including feedback in the framework of the implementation of adopted legislative acts.
Another manifestation of the elements of direct democracy is the institution of petitions. The first electronic petition mechanism in Uzbekistan was launched on April 20, 2018. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is the initiator of the introduction of this type of collective electronic appeal as an advanced mechanism of democracy. “Mening fikrim” is designed to ensure the broad participation of the population, citizens and people’s deputies in the process of discussing drafts of laws, to become a platform for expressing the most relevant civil initiatives. All proposals and comments received from citizens through the portal “Mening fikrim” must be necessarily considered by the Oliy Majlis or Kengashes of people’s deputies. All this is designed to serve the implementation of a priority goal: the people should be the only source and author of the law.
Accordingly, it can be concluded that the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the system of national legislation enshrine the basic principles and institutions of direct democracy. Today, we can certainly state that the democratic norms and principles established by the national legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan are inextricably linked with modern international democratic principles and are intensively developing on the basis of mutual enrichment and harmonization.
Candidate of Juridical Sciences,
Head of the department of ILPPS