CONSTITUTION AND EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES OF UZBEKISTAN GOVERNMENT

CONSTITUTION OF UZBEKISTAN

Constitution: several previous; latest adopted December 8, 1992; amended several times, last in 2014 (2014). The Uzbekistan Constitution provides for strong presidency, with power to appoint government and dissolve legislature. In practice, authoritarian state with all power in executive and suppression of dissent. Local government with little autonomy; judiciary ineffective. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *, CIA World Factbook]

From the beginning of his presidency, Karimov remained committed in words to instituting democratic reforms. Officially the constitution created a separation of powers among a strong presidency, the legislature, and a judiciary. In practice, however, these changes have been largely cosmetic. Uzbekistan remains among the most authoritarian states in Central Asia. Although the language of the constitution includes many democratic features, it can be superseded by executive decrees and legislation, and often constitutional law simply is ignored. *

The president is the head of state and is granted supreme executive power by the constitution. As commander in chief of the armed forces, the president also may declare a state of emergency or of war. The president is empowered to appoint the prime minister and full cabinet of ministers and the judges of the three national courts, subject to the approval of the legislature, and to appoint all members of lower courts. The president also has the power to dissolve the parliament, in effect negating the Oly Majlis's veto power over presidential nominations in a power struggle situation. *

Deputies to the legislature are elected to five-year terms. The body may be dismissed by the president with the concurrence of the Constitutional Court; because that court is subject to presidential appointment, the dismissal clause weights the balance of power heavily toward the executive branch. The Oly Majlis enacts legislation, which may be initiated by the president, within the parliament, by the high courts, by the procurator general (highest law enforcement official in the country), or by the government of the Autonomous Province of Karakalpakstan. Besides legislation, international treaties, presidential decrees, and states of emergency also must be ratified by the Oly Majlis. *

The national judiciary includes the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and the High Economic Court. Lower court systems exist at the regional, district, and town levels. Judges at all levels are appointed by the president and approved by the Oly Majlis. Nominally independent of the other branches of government, the courts remain under complete control of the executive branch. As in the system of the Soviet era, the procurator general and his regional and local equivalents are both the state's chief prosecuting officials and the chief investigators of criminal cases, a configuration that limits the pretrial rights of defendants. *

Head of Government in Uzbekistan

The president of Uzbekistan is the head of state and the head of the executive branch. He appoints the Cabinet of Minsters and the prime minister. The president lives in a relatively new, luxurious official residence known as the White Palace. The most powerful positions in Uzbekistan below the president are minsters of the interior, defense ad state security.

Chief of state: President Islom Karimov (since 24 March 1990, when he was elected president by the then Supreme Soviet; first elected president of independent Uzbekistan on December 29. 1991). Head of government: Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev (since 11 December 2003); First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov (since 2 January 2008). Cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the president with approval of both chambers of the Supreme Assembly (Oliy Majlis). [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

The president is granted supreme executive power by the constitution. As commander in chief of the armed forces, the president also may declare a state of emergency or of war. The president is empowered to appoint the prime minister and full cabinet of ministers and the judges of the three national courts, subject to the approval of the legislature, and to appoint all members of lower courts. The president also has the power to dissolve the parliament, in effect negating the Oly Majlis's veto power over presidential nominations in a power struggle situation. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996]

Karimov as President

After becoming president, Karimov eliminated the democratic opposition, took control of the media, and beefed up the military and secret police. He gave the secret police a free hand to crack down on the opposition, corruption and Islamic extremism as they saw fit.

Karimov controls Uzbekistan's valuable assets and has held on to power through manipulating the intelligence and security services. Initially he seemed more repressive but less corrupt than other Central Asian leaders. But later corruption became a serious problem and poverty has endured.

Karimov has been given some credit for paving roads and keeping cities clean and maintaining control under at least a guise of stability but has largely been condemned as being an authoritarian despot. Some have praised him for being on the front line of the fight against terrorism but most believe he has used Muslim extremism as an excuse to clamp down on anyone that poses a threat to his regime.

Karimov has developed a personality cult, albeit one that is rather understated compared to other Communist leaders. His picture is in every government office in the country. Officials pepper their conversations with praises for their leader. Erich Follath wrote in Der Spiegel: On a drive through the Tashkent night, there are few people on the broad boulevards that Karimov had built in the city -- aside from armed guards standing in front of the monumental new buildings he has erected. Like many dictators, Karimov has his own master architect. He wants to leave behind a new world as his legacy. But as with North Korea's Kim dynasty, there's nothing more to it than sheer megalomania. [Source: Erich Follath, Der Spiegel, April 3, 2015]

Executive Branch and Presidential Election in Uzbekistan

Karimov has accumulated powers that ensure full dominance of the government process for as long as he is president. He appoints the prime minister, all members of the cabinet, all members of the judiciary, 16 members of the newly formed Senate, and all provincial executives. He also has cultivated or weakened the clans that form the traditional political fabric of Uzbekistan, including the powerful clan from Samarkand that put him in power. Karimov has used his direct control of the National Security Service to effectively limit opposition activity. The cabinet is a rubber-stamp aggregation of six deputy prime ministers, 14 ministers, and the heads of five agencies and state committees. Karimov’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, reportedly aspires to succeed her father. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

The president was originally supposed to be elected to five year terms, serving a maximum of two terms. In March 1995, Karimov secured a 99 percent majority in a rigged referendum to extend his term as president from the prescribed next election in 1997 to 2000. A 2002 referendum increased the president's term from five years to eight years with the next election taking place in December 2007.

According to Azimov, Mutalova, Huseynov, Tsoyi, Rechel: “The executive branch of government is represented by the Cabinet of Ministers, which consists of the Prime Minister, the deputy prime ministers, the heads of ministries, government agencies and bodies, and regions (viloyats), and the head of government of the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic. The Cabinet of Ministers is formally headed by the Prime Minister; it is accountable to the President and the Parliament (Republic of Uzbekistan, 1992, 2003). Viloyat governments are represented by viloyat councils, which consist of elected members and are headed by governors (khokims). [Source: “Uzbekistan: Health System Review” by Azimov, Mutalova, Huseynov, Tsoyi, Rechel, Health Systems in Transition, 2014 ^=^]

Presidential elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for subsequent terms; previously was a five-year term, extended by a 2002 constitutional amendment to seven years and changed back to five years in 2011); election last held on March 29, 2015 (next to be held in 2020); prime minister nominated by the political party or parties that win(s) the most seats in parliament; ministers and deputy ministers appointed by the president. Presidential election results in 2015: Islom Karimov reelected president; percent of vote - Islom Karimov: 90.4 percent; Akmal Saidov: 3.1 percent; Khatamjan Ketmanov: 2.9 percent: Nariman Umarov: 2.1 percent; other 1.5 percent. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Karimov’s Inner Circle and Power

Karimov’s inner circle is made up of members of his clan from Samarkand but includes some business leaders from Tashkent. Rustam Inoyatov is the head of the SNB, Uzbekistan’s national security service. Reid Standish wrote in Foreign Policy, “Inoyatov is known for having the president’s ear. A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2008 describes Inoyatov as controlling political access to the president and even extorting various cabinet ministers to keep them in line and prevent them from developing close relationships with the president.” [Source:Reid Standish, Foreign Policy, September 9, 2014]

Erich Follath wrote in Der Spiegel: “Karimov has likewise proven an expert at playing Uzbekistan's powerful families off against each other. Political analyst Alisher Ilkhamov, who, like so many other Uzbeks, was himself driven into exile, describes Karimov's system of power like this: "If you can imagine the battle between the different clans in the country as being a jar filled with spiders, you get an idea of his model of power. Karimov -- who is the leader in addition to being its judge and animal tamer -- constantly ensures that the glass is often emptied and filled with new spiders." [Source: Erich Follath, Der Spiegel, April 3, 2015]

According to Human Rights Watch: “A much-publicized feud between Gulnara Karimova, the president’s daughter, and her sister and mother, as well as with the country’s repressive National Security Services (SNB) that unfolded on Twitter and in the press revealed a level of infighting within the political elite in unprecedented fashion. Karimova’s accusations about corruption within the political elite and SNB officials’ use of torture brought to the fore many politically sensitive topics.” [Source: “World Report 2015: Uzbekistan”, Human Rights Watch]

Legislature of Uzbekistan

The legislative system is represented by the Parliament (Oliy Majlis), which is the highest representative body in the country. Uzbekistan has a bicameral Parliament which is elected and appointed for a five-year term. It consists of: 1) an Upper House or Senate with 100 members, 84 of whom are elected by viloyat governing councils (six from each administrative division) and 16 of whom are appointed by the President; 2) a Lower House or Legislative Chamber with 150 members, who are elected by popular vote. [Source: “Uzbekistan: Health System Review” by Azimov, Mutalova, Huseynov, Tsoyi, Rechel, Health Systems in Transition, 2014 ^=^]

Legislature: a 2002 referendum replaced the one-chamber Parliament with a bicameral legislature under the president’s control. The old legislature, the Oliy Majlis (Supreme Assembly) had 150 members who served five year terms. The legislature has little power. Members are chosen in a process that prevents the opposition from taking part.

Legislative branch: description: bicameral Supreme Assembly or Oliy Majlis consists of: 1) the Senate (100 seats; 84 members indirectly elected by regional governing councils and 16 appointed by the president; members serve 5-year terms); and 2) the Legislative Chamber or Qonunchilik Palatasi (150 seats; 135 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote with a second round if needed and 15 indirectly elected by the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan; members serve 5-year terms). All parties in the Supreme Assembly support President Islom Karimov. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Legislative elections in Uzbekistan: last held on December 21, 2014 and January 4, 2015 (next to be held in December 2019). election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; Legislative Chamber - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LDPU 52, National Rebirth Party 36, NDP 27, Adolat 20, Ecological Movement 15. =

Legislative Branch of Uzbekistan

Until 2004, the legislative branch was the unicameral Supreme Assembly (Oly Majlis), consisting of 250 members elected by popular vote to five-year terms. In 2002 a constitutional amendment reduced the Oly Majlis to 120 seats and established a second, 100- member chamber, the Senate, which took office for the first time in January 2005. Members of the Senate are not elected directly; the president appoints 16 members, and six members are chosen by each of the 14 subordinate jurisdictions: 12 provinces, the Karakalpakstan Autonomous Republic, and the city of Tashkent. Representation of those jurisdictions in the directly elected Oly Majlis is according to population.[Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

Karimov’s power in the parliament has been evident in that body’s extension of the presidential term of office from five to seven years in 2002 and by its interpretation that Karimov’s first term extended from 1991 to 2000, enabling him to run for a “second” term. Following the two-round parliamentary elections of December 2004 and January 2005, the Oly Majlis included members from five parties, all of which were pro-government. Some 21 women held seats after the elections of 2004–5. **

Deputies to the legislature are elected to five-year terms. The body may be dismissed by the president with the concurrence of the Constitutional Court; because that court is subject to presidential appointment, the dismissal clause weights the balance of power heavily toward the executive branch. The Oly Majlis enacts legislation, which may be initiated by the president, within the parliament, by the high courts, by the procurator general (highest law enforcement official in the country), or by the government of the Autonomous Province of Karakalpakstan. Besides legislation, international treaties, presidential decrees, and states of emergency also must be ratified by the Oly Majlis. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Judicial Branch of Uzbekistan

Judicial branch in Uzbekistan: highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of 34 judges organized in civil, criminal, and military sections); Constitutional Court (consists of 7 judges); Higher Economic Court (consists of 19 judges). Judge selection and term of office: judges of the 3 highest courts nominated by the president and confirmed by the Oliy Majlis; judges appointed for 5-year terms subject to reappointment. Subordinate courts:regional, district, city, and town courts. [Source: CIA World Factbook ]

Uzbekistan nominally has an independent judicial branch. However, in practice decisions of the judiciary generally follow those of the Office of the Procuracy, the state prosecutorial agency, and the president has the power to appoint and remove judges. (Parliamentary approval is required for removal.) Judges of the Supreme Court, which stands at the top level of the national judicial system, are appointed to five-year terms. A Constitutional Court reviews laws and decisions for compliance with the constitution, and military courts handle all cases related to the military. [Source: Library of Congress February 2007 **]

The national judiciary includes the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and the High Economic Court. Lower court systems exist at the regional, district, and town levels. Judges at all levels are appointed by the president and approved by the Oly Majlis. Nominally independent of the other branches of government, the courts remain under complete control of the executive branch. As in the system of the Soviet era, the procurator general and his regional and local equivalents are both the state's chief prosecuting officials and the chief investigators of criminal cases, a configuration that limits the pretrial rights of defendants. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Page Top

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.