On March 23, the Uzbek Senat (the upper chamber of the parliament, the Oliy Majlis) passed, with little discussion, a new law delaying the country’s upcoming presidential election. In accordance with this law, elections for the lower house of parliament (the Qonunchilik palatasi) will take place in December 2014, the Senat elections in January 2015, and the presidential election in April 2015. The official reason for the change: to spread out the three elections that were originally scheduled to be held in December 2014—for the presidency, the parliament, and the local councils (mahalliy kengashlar).
Uzbekistan’s last presidential election occurred in December 2007. President Karimov was elected to a seven-year term with 88 percent of the vote. The 150 deputies of the Qonunchilik palatasi last faced elections in December 2009, and the 100 deputies of the Senat in January 2010—with members of parliament serving five-year terms. Political observer Kamoliddin Rabbimov and activist Tolib Yoqubov both argued
that they did not expect the president, Islam Karimov, to participate in the upcoming election, given his age and rumors of his ill-health. Karimov, who will be seventy-seven at the time of the election, has been in power for the past twenty-two years. Local observers interviewed by Amerika Ovozi (Voice of America’s Uzbek service) suspect that this extension may provide evidence that the regime is struggling to identify a successor to President Karimov.
According to Rabbimov, never before in Uzbek political history has an election time line been set three years in advance
of the vote. Previous election laws required that each announcement be made six months before the term in question was to expire, and for the Central Election Commission to begin to meet three months prior to that.
Farhod Tolipov, a political scientist well known in foreign circles (who was residing in France at the time of his interview), said that he found neither the official explanations
for the change of date nor the Senat’s expressed concern about ensuring candidates adequate time to prepare for the elections convincing: “What, that the presidential and parliamentary are to come at the same time, only today there is information about that? This reason appears inappropriate. We are watching, the presidential term will exceed seven years. Parties must go through preparations before every election, and two years still remain. An additional three months is useless. Thus, that’s not the main reason for the time.”
Though VOA’s interview contains several different arguments that the new law will extend Karimov’s term, there are others who argue that the changed election dates actually shorten the presidential term
by eight or nine months.
Regardless, the new law should provide clearer guidelines
than previously available on the scheduling of elections: Local elections will be automatically moved into the following year when overlap occurs, but because both the presidential and parliamentary elections are tied to political parties, they will remain together—with the parliamentary elections occurring first. Finally, to create the opportunity for the Central Election Commission to announce the parliamentary results, ninety days will separate these elections from those of the presidency.
Only time will tell what other considerations may have been behind the change in the electoral timetable, and whether the ninety-day period, or even the parliamentary election cycle itself, will be used by President Karimov to present and anoint his successor.