“Three waves” of the development of the electoral legislation of the New Uzbekistan”

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“THE THIRD STEP” – THE FORMATION OF LEGAL CONDITIONS FOR FAIR ELECTION

By Mr. Akmal Saidov, First Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) of the Republic of Uzbekistan

The modern electoral system of New Uzbekistan is the result of many years of evolution and multilateral political dialogue. In general, the electoral legislation has undergone many adjustments aimed at improving the electoral process. Moreover, the introduction of each, even a minor change, is always preceded by thorough work, an analysis of the past election campaigns and the development of proposals on the improvement of legislation on its basis.

Thus, the electoral system has developed dynamically, over a number of years, and these changes were a logical continuation of the political and legal development of the country.

A group of deputies of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis initiated the issue of amendments and additions to the Electoral Code aimed at further improving electoral legislation and electoral practice, bringing it in line with international standards and best practices in the field of truly democratic elections. This applies, in particular, to the following issues.

The first is the further distribution of powers and the strengthening of the principle of checks and balances between the constituent (the system of election commissions, headed by the Central Election Commission) and the judicial branches of government.

The amendments and additions made provide, first of all, to strengthen the independence and responsibility of precinct election commissions for their decisions, while increasing the role of courts in considering appeals and complaints of citizens, other participants in the electoral process on the actions of election commissions and their decisions.

Taking into account the recommendations of the OSCE / ODIHR, the Election Code stipulates that the CEC will not consider applications from voters and other participants in the electoral process on the actions of election commissions and their decisions.

This eliminates the dual system of filing complaints and appeals (to the CEC and the court), as well as the possibility of making conflicting decisions and decisions. These issues will be attributed only to the competence of the courts.

At the same time, the judicial protection of citizens’ electoral rights is being significantly strengthened. Today, according to the Electoral Code:

• Any citizen can report to the precinct election commission about an error or inaccuracy in the voter lists. Within 24 hours, the precinct election commission is obliged to check the appeal and either eliminate the error or inaccuracy, or give the applicant a reasoned response to reject the appeal. In this case, the actions and decisions of the precinct election commission may be appealed to the court;

• decisions of election commissions can be appealed by bodies of political parties, their candidates, proxies, observers and voters in court;

• CEC decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The Electoral Code provides for a clear procedure for subjects of electoral law to appeal against decisions made at all stages of preparation and conduct of elections. The Code regulates the procedure for consideration by election commissions of applications from individuals and legal entities on the organization, conduct of elections and summing up its results.

All this contributes to the realization of the fundamental right of citizens to justice (the dispute must be considered and decided by the court). The constituent authority should only solve the problems of organizing elections, creating conditions for citizens to freely express their will, and the assessment of the actions (inaction) of election commissions should be carried out by the courts.

The second is the introduction of a notification procedure for mass meetings, rallies and processions organized by political parties during elections. So, in 2019, before the parliamentary elections, political parties held more than 800 mass rallies throughout the country. At the same time, there were no obstacles and there were no appeals from the parties about any violations of their rights to hold mass events.

However, there was a gap in the legislation in this area. Therefore, in the Electoral Code, the norm is enshrined that parties will organize mass events in advance – at least three days in advance – notifying the khokimiyats of the place and time of their holding. That is, there will be not a “permissive”, but a “notification” procedure.

Third, strengthening the capacity of district election commissions to organize and conduct presidential elections. So, today, in accordance with the law, at least seventy days before the elections, the Central Election Commission forms a district election commission for elections of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, deputies of the Legislative Chamber, consisting of a chairman, deputy chairman, secretary and 6-8 other members of the commission.

However, here it is necessary to take into account the specifics – for parliamentary elections within one electoral district, 70-120 precinct election commissions are formed, and during the presidential elections – about 1000 precinct election commissions. Consequently, during the presidential elections, the task of coordinating activities and providing effective assistance to precinct election commissions becomes much more difficult. In this regard, the Electoral Code has increased the number of members of precinct election commissions to 11-18 people.

The “third step” also envisages a number of other novelties that eliminate the technical and organizational issues identified during the previous elections. In general, they serve to democratize electoral legislation and practice, taking into account the generally recognized international principles of holding fair and truly democratic elections.

RAISING THE ELECTORAL CULTURE OF THE POPULATION IS A GUARANTEE FOR TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESS OF ELECTIONS

Democratic transformations in Uzbekistan, as well as an ever-increasing level of political and legal consciousness of citizens, civil institutions are the basis for further improvement of the country’s electoral system.

In May, 2021, the Parliament of Uzbekistan has ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Under article 29 of the Convention, States parties guarantee persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and undertake, inter alia, to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate, directly or through freely chosen representatives, in political and public life on an equal basis with others. including had the right and the opportunity to vote and be elected.

The Electoral Code embodies all the mechanisms for the exercise by persons with disabilities of their rights to participate in the public and political life of the country by voting. Thus, the premises for voting should be provided with ramps for persons with disabilities. Technological equipment in polling stations – tables, booths and ballot boxes – should be installed taking into account the needs of wheelchair voters.

During the 2019 elections to the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, 4,158 persons with disabilities were involved in election commissions of various levels.

In May 2021, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Central Election Commission and the Society of Disabled People, the Society of the Blind, the Society of the Deaf and the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan.

To create the most convenient and comfortable conditions for voters with disabilities, election commissions will hold a number of organizational events and prepare the necessary information materials. Information about the registered candidates for the office of President of the country will be posted on the information boards of the polling stations. For example, a visually impaired voter, having placed a blank ballot paper on a stencil using Braille, will be able to feel the name of a registered candidate by touch and place any sign in the square of the corresponding slot.

For deaf and hard of hearing voters, if there are applications, sign language interpreters may be invited to polling stations on election day. Pre-election TV programs will be broadcast with sign language translation and subtitles, and materials for the blind will be published in special magazines using Braille.

All these measures will certainly contribute to the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities, who today are active participants in democratic reforms in the country.

Increasing the electoral culture and activeness of voters, strengthening their confidence in the electoral institution, strengthening the conviction in society that the only modern and democratic mechanism for the formation of state power, the implementation of constitutional principles in the new conditions are elections, are the most important tasks and necessary conditions for the implementation of constitutional rights citizens to participate in the management of the affairs of society and the state.

To achieve these goals, it is necessary to implement at a qualitatively new level, in particular, the following tasks:

firstly, the development of professional skills of the organizers, as well as the strengthening and improvement of the system of legal education of voters and all other participants in the electoral process, giving this work a purposeful, public and comprehensive nature;

secondly, improving the general legal and electoral culture of various categories of participants in the electoral process, especially young people;

third, improving work with the media, increasing their knowledge of the electoral process, involving them in the process of disseminating reliable information at all stages of elections, as well as increasing media culture in society;

fourthly, the involvement of civil society institutions in ensuring democracy, legitimacy and fairness of the electoral process, their involvement in the activities of state bodies to protect the rights and interests of all participants in the electoral process, voters.

At the same time, special attention should be paid to increasing the activity and involvement of the population in making decisions of statehood of importance through a thorough study of public opinion when developing draft laws and taking measures of public importance (for example, through the regulation.gov.uz portal or Mening fikrim);

fifth, the formation and development of information and legal educational resources based on new information and communication technologies.

All these measures also contribute to providing voters with guarantees of free expression of will, strengthening a sense of patriotism and responsibility, strengthening political stability in society, and increasing the legal literacy of the population.

It should be borne in mind that the process of developing and improving the electoral system, as well as electoral legislation, is far from over. After all, world practice shows that almost every regular election campaign highlights new problems. We are at such a stage of their development when it is necessary, using the accumulated experience, to predict how these or those proposed changes will be applied.

Election organizers must be familiar with the laws and be able to work in accordance with them. This should be facilitated, among other things, by the National Action Program prepared by the Uzbek parliament to improve the electoral culture of the population. The main thing is their striving for the growth of professionalism in the conduct of elections, serving the law in accordance with its meaning and content.

In general, all these “three steps” of democratization of electoral legislation and practice in New Uzbekistan, together with the large-scale and dynamic processes of political, economic, legal, social and spiritual renewal of society and modernization of the country being carried out in the country, lead to:

first, the significant development and strengthening of a real multi-party system in the country. A healthy inter-party competition has been created in the country with equal conditions for all parties to conduct an election campaign, fair distribution of budget funds allocated for the preparation and conduct of elections, fairness of voting and legitimacy of elections. In other words, there is every reason to assert that the upcoming presidential elections will be held in a multi-party system, competition of candidates, openness, freedom of opinion and genuine choice;

secondly, expanding the role and opportunities for participation in elections of civil society institutions, volunteers, a significant increase in the level of political, public activity, civic responsibility of people, exactingness and exactingness of citizens in assessing the progress of socio-economic and political and legal reforms;

third, the creation in Uzbekistan of all the necessary legal conditions for parties and representatives of non-governmental non-profit organizations, local and foreign observers, the media for the exercise of their rights and obligations during the election campaign;

fourth, expanding the use of digital technologies in the electoral process and their legal regulation;

fifth, the coronavirus pandemic has made a difference in every aspect of human life. In a number of countries, elections were canceled or postponed. Now the elections are being held in new conditions, for the first time people are admitted to polling stations strictly wearing masks using an antiseptic. In organizing the electoral process in a pandemic, attention should be paid to the following aspects.

The first is aimed at the general organization of elections.

These are measures related to premises, non-contact thermometry, flow regulation, social distance, mask mode, use of sanitizers.

The second concerns the requirements for voters, in particular, the mandatory wearing of a mask, the use of antiseptics, and distance.

Third, the participants in the electoral process, who will be present at the polling stations permanently on election day, are members of election commissions, observers, and proxies.

Elections are indeed turning into effective mechanisms for the formation of state power, ensuring its continuity and political stability”.

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