The World Today for April 27, 2023

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UZBEKISTAN

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev feels like staying around for a while.

That’s why voters in Uzbekistan have started marking their ballots in a referendum that would let him remain in office until 2040. If voters approve the new constitution, the document would then “nullify” the two terms that Mirziyoyev has already held, allowing him to run again, and extend Uzbek presidential terms from five years to seven, reported Radio Free Europe.

The new constitution would change more than the president’s job. It would also make Uzbekistan into a “social state” that ensures citizens enjoy a higher quality of life. The new constitution would triple the amount of the state’s obligations to citizens including the right to housing and medical care, fair wages, and safe working conditions.

“We must change the current principle of state-society-person to a new one of person-society-state, and this must be enshrined in national legislation and in legal practice,” said Mirziyoyev in 2021 when the idea of revising the constitution was first floated, according to bne IntelliNews.

If approved, the new constitution would create a new economic system and social contract in the country that would reduce poverty, boost economic development, and curb corruption, argued Fanil Kadyrov, deputy director of the International Institute for Central Asia, in Sada El Balad English, an Egyptian news website.

Foreign dignitaries who have visited the former Soviet republic in Central Asia have compared the proposed constitution to the Magna Carta, the English document of 1215 that many view as one of the first measures in history to reduce central government and enshrine individual liberties, the Uzbekistan-based Center for Strategy Development, a non-government organization with close ties to the Uzbek government, claimed in a press release.

Discussions over the new constitution come as Uzbekistan is opening up more to the world. Chinese ties with the country are expanding. The same is happening with Iran. Tourism has also become more popular in the country, reported Euronews. The ancient city of Samarkand, for example, contains stunning architecture that mixes Eastern and Western themes, including the 600-year-old mausoleum of the Turco-Mongolian conqueror Tamerlane.

Controversies have dogged the process, though. For example, initial proposals for the new constitution sought to eliminate the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic’s right to secede. Last year, Karakalpaks protested when details of the proposal became public. Twenty-one protesters died in a police crackdown on the demonstration. The idea was then dropped from the final draft of the proposed constitution.

Today, as Eurasia.net wrote, activist Dauletmurat Tazhimuratov is alleging that he has been tortured in Uzbek prisons because of his supposed involvement in whipping up the trouble.

The new constitution, alas, likely won’t help Tazhimuratov.

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