Friday, December 3, 2021

Uzbekistan’s Presidential Elections 2021

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Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan OSCE preliminary findings

On October 24th, 2021, Uzbek voters went to the polls to elect their new President. According to the results published by the Uzbekistan Central Election Commission (UCEC), 80.8% of eligible voters showed up to cast their ballot, and 81.1% of them voted for the incumbent president Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who consequently secured another term in office.

On October 25th, in the wake of election day, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) released a “Statement of Preliminary Findings & Conclusions”, consisting of its electoral mission’s preliminary assessment of the unfolding of the electoral process.

The electoral process has been widely covered and broadcasted both in Uzbekistan and around the world.

The document acknowledged a degree of improvement in certain areas, such as the implementation of previous OSCE recommendations on the electoral legal framework, a partial opening of the media environment, especially online, as well as the efficient performance of the UCEC. At the same time, however, it concluded that the elections suffered from a number of significant shortcomings. For instance, it condemned Uzbekistan’s political system for not being genuinely pluralistic, for excessively restricting the citizens’ freedom of expression, and for failing to properly address a number of legal and procedural issues related to the electoral process.

In a strongly worded response to the OSCE document, Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, head of Geopolitics/Economics at the Defence Journal and regional expert on Central Asia and the South Caucasus, energetically rejected the document’s findings.

Dr. Khan defended the level of pluralism in the Uzbek political system, arguing that every political party has received equal treatment in terms of media projection, financing, campaigning, association, and arranging meetings – the only limitations being the ones related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He stressed the absence of political violence and protests during the electoral cycle, and the Uzbek politicians’ dedication in staying away from “dirty tactics” in the lead up to the elections.

While the OSCE mission accused the incumbent president of blurring the lines between state duties and political campaigning, Dr. Khan rejected such accusations, arguing that the president has not announced any benefits to his voters ahead of the elections. Moreover, responding to the OSCE mission’s claims about limited freedom of expression, Dr. Khan argued that the electoral process has been widely covered and broadcasted both in Uzbekistan and around the world.

In addition, regarding the OSCE mission’s accusations regarding procedural irregularities, Dr. Khan cited his own experience as international election observer, saying that he has personally not found any such irregularity, but only mistakes committed by common voters due to human error. Finally, Dr. Khan strongly accused the OSCE of adopting double standards, citing cases concerning the Catalan independence referendum of 2017 and the Scottish referendum of 2021.

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