Uzbek population participated in the country’s first Constitution Referendum

7 May

Credit photos: Pierre Michel Virot

On 30 April 2023, the Uzbek population participated in the country’s first constitutional referendum since the country gained its independence in 1991.

The Constitution was originally ratified in 1992, one year after the country became independent. Under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a comprehensive reform programme was undertaken, and a set of constitutional reforms was prepared under the direction of the country’s Constitutional Reform Commission.

An initial draft constitution was published in June 2022, which was followed by a public consultation period. Various parliamentary committees, overseen by the Constitutional Reform Commission, subsequently reviewed citizens’ feedback before making changes. It was in March of this year that a final draft was unveiled and the vote scheduled for April 30. The final draft altered 65 percent of the existing Uzbek Constitution, including the introduction of 27 new articles and 159 new provisions.

Some aspects of the new constitution are considered major progress, such as protections for people from eviction and wanton home demolition, provisions barring discrimination against women in the workplace owing to pregnancy, and enshrining the right to remain silent for those accused of crimes.

We were in Tashkent during the referendum, visiting voting stations. In keeping with Uzbek usage, the entire referendum process was well prepared. The voting stations were mainly in schools and universities, and one noteworthy aspect was that they were not only very well organized but also filled with enthusiastic voters.

According to Uzbekistan’s Central Election Commission (CEC), 90.21 percent of those who voted in Sunday’s referendum approved the new constitution. Turnout, the CEC said, exceeded 84 percent, showing clearly the population’s commitment to the amendments to the constitution.