The newly elected members of Uzbekistan’s parliament have commenced a four-year tenure. In the joint session of the two houses of Uzbekistan's parliament on Jan. 24, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev tasked the new members to work closely with constituents to improve conditions.
Party leaders vowed to consolidate the president’s first term contributions to accomplish a better future. Mobilization of such support in the constituencies is expected to help Mirziyoyev, who observers believe will seek reelection in 2021.
There are signs pointing toward a few priority pursuits placed on legislators until the end of their mandate in December 2023: Loyalty to the leader and support to the status quo is the remit for parliament which will remain a higher priority for the deputies and senators.
The emerging direction of the legislators may not alter the country’s polity, although changes introduced in the profile of the new members of parliament (MPs) is much highlighted.
Much premium will be placed on profile over performance, continuity over change and caution over haste.
Despite the status quo, the new parliament in the Central Asian country has a youthful look, with batons of power only symbolically passing to the new generation.
As many as 65% of candidates, fielded by parties, were first-timers. Only 30% were seeking re-election.
Gender and youth representation
Uzbekistan will also have its first female chairwoman of the Senate, Tanzila Kamalovna Narbayeva, 63. Earlier she worked as deputy prime minister.
There is also a steep increase in the number of women parliamentarians. Their number has doubled from the previous session to 48.
At 26, Sherzod Rahimov is the youngest lawmaker, elected on the ticket of the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan.
A look at the profile of new MPs suggests 97 (65%) are between 30 and 50 years old. Therefore, the average age of MPs has come down to 46, whereas in the previous parliament it was close to 50.
This is in line with an evolving trend in Central Asian nations, where the emphasis is to bring down the average age of politicians between 45 and 50.
The change in the profile of parliament has, however, not affected the status quo. In a sign of continuity, the ruling Uzbekistani Liberal Democratic Party won the majority of seats in the house of 150. Having won 53 seats, it reelected its leader Abdullah Aripov as prime minister.
He will continue to work with Mirziyoyev.
The actual decision-making in Uzbekistan rests in the hands of a small group close to the president. As in the past, both houses of parliament are expected to endorse decisions which please the top leadership.
Much attention was paid to improve the procedures to upgrade the election regulations. However, it is still too early to say if the new parliament will have enough strength to exercise authority to make any meaningful changes during its tenure.
The five parties which were permitted to participate in the election did not promise any big changes in the political system.
The parliamentary elections are also seen as a crucial step in Mirziyoyev’s strategy to build support in the run-up to the next presidential elections in 2021.
Messages and their meaning
Mirziyoyev uses the platform of liberalization as a means to earn legitimization and improve his political standing domestically and abroad.
However, as concrete measures for pursuing meaningful reforms and making the executive more accountable remain awaited, sceptics treat all lofty claims made recently as populist rhetoric rather than a clear and concrete political change policy.
According to Temur Umarov, an Uzbek commentator at Carnegie’s Moscow Centre, most young people in Uzbekistan desire improved living standards. However, the older generation tends to side with caution and stability with not much desire to rock the boat which could weaken the setup.
In the 150-seat Uzbekistan parliament, the Liberal Democratic Party gained 53 seats whereas the Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (Milliy Tiklanish) won 36, the People’s Democratic Party 22; the Social Democratic Party Adolat 24 and the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan (EDU) fetched 15, according to results announced by the country’s election commission.
The parties were permitted to participate since they assured to secure and sustain support for the policies of the current leadership.
On the whole, as a notable change, it is boasted that younger MPs and more women entered the new parliament.
An important decision to be deliberated in the coming months will concern whether and when Uzbekistan will join the Eurasian Economic Union, an initiative championed by Russia.
Observers anticipate that some dissenting voices among MPs are likely to be projected as a sign that the country is not ready as leaders will explore more favorable terms from Russia to build the required consensus.