Uzbekistan- The Reelection of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev confirms the success of the Uzbek model combining modernisation and deep-rooted civilisation
According to the final results announced by the Central Electoral Commission, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev won the first early presidential election in the country’s history, held on 9 July 2023, with 87.05% of the vote and a turnout of almost 80%.
This wide-ranging re-election of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev demonstrates the desire of Uzbek citizens to give priority above all to the country’s stability and their approval of the gradual reform of Uzbek society and the economy initiated by the President, who was first elected in September 2016.
This result can also be seen as a positive assessment of the reforms undertaken by the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev over the last 7 years. First of all, citizens once again confirmed their approval of the changes to the constitution by a large majority, which means that this process of inaugurating a « New Uzbekistan » based on the three pillars of « person – society – state » is legitimate since it has the support of the nation.
Following the success of the referendum on the new constitution last April, the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, decided to call early elections (before the end of his three-and-a-half-year term), in order to have a strong mandate to implement the political process of the « New Uzbekistan », given that a renewed system of state power is needed to carry out such a task and meet the expectations of the people.
As with every electoral event in Uzbekistan, the organisation of this election was highly efficient from a logistical point of view. In addition to the motivation of the many citizens who volunteered to organise the event and the government officials, Uzbekistan is fortunate to have a wide range of infrastructures, including universities, schools, theatres, libraries, concert halls and administrative buildings, all of which guarantee the success of this type of event.
By choosing continuity for the team in power, the citizens of Uzbekistan are at the same time legitimising the Uzbek development model, which has been accelerated by the current president. This Uzbek model, which is unique in the world, aims to reform the country towards modernisation, while preserving its roots inherited from its very rich cultural and civilisational heritage. It should be remembered that, from the geopolitical point of view of each nation’s right to sovereignty and control over its own historical destiny (i.e. its survival in an increasingly competitive geopolitical system), each nation has the right to choose its own political model, adapted to its geographical and historical determinants. While Uzbekistan’s economic and societal reforms are inspired by many countries around the world, both in the West and in Asia, there is no question of fully importing ‘turnkey’ Western models that are not adapted to the country’s civilisational, historical and geographical determinants. Some media in the European Union underestimate this aspect and project their own « Westernist » model or ideology onto Uzbekistan, without knowing the country’s real internal and external geopolitical conditions or its needs. The Uzbek state is invariably pursuing its reforms, but must also preserve its ability to steer the reforms and implement them gradually. The aim is for citizens, but also the more traditional networks, to take ownership of these changes in order to accept greater pluralism. Prior to the referendum, a number of public consultations were organised to solicit ideas and proposals.
Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has undergone a continuous transformation, and all the careful observers who have visited the country on a regular basis have been impressed by the construction of new universities, schools, cultural centres, road, rail and airport infrastructure, new residential areas and even new towns. It should be remembered here that these major works are necessary to keep pace with Uzbekistan’s demographic growth and its citizens’ aspirations for ever greater social well-being.
Between 1960 and 2021, the population of Uzbekistan rose from 8.53 million to 34.92 million, an increase of 309.5% in 61 years. According to forecasts, the population of Uzbekistan will reach 45 million by 2050. Sustained economic development will be needed to provide jobs for the new generations entering the labour market. This is why Uzbekistan is wisely taking small but determined steps towards reform, so as not to undermine the edifice that has been gradually built up since independence. Uzbekistan is also an Asian country where community cohesion is considered more important than in Europe. In Uzbekistan, the majority of the population consider that this is an asset to be preserved, whereas in countries that are too westernised, the drift towards excessive individualism is cracking societies apart.
This election inaugurates the extension of the presidential term in the new constitution, which will be extended from 5 to 7 years. This change will give each presidency more time to implement reforms, because continuity is important in a rapidly changing country facing numerous geopolitical, economic and societal challenges. It should be remembered that in the 1958 French constitution drafted by General de Gaulle, the presidential term of office was 7 years, but was reduced to 5 years, making it more difficult for French presidents to implement reforms over the long term because of the short-term electoral outlook.
For a country like Uzbekistan, political stability is crucial, as the country faces formidable challenges. From a geopolitical point of view, the potential difficulties for Uzbekistan are very great indeed. In the context of growing rivalry between major powers in Eurasia and the rest of the world, Uzbekistan, the pivot of Central Asia, has opted for a multi-faceted policy, i.e. a subtle balance between major global players in order to preserve its stability and autonomy of decision-making. The launch by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in 2016 of greater regional coordination between Central Asian states was intended gradually to foster regional rapprochement, and this process has already improved the security and stability of Uzbekistan and the whole of Central Asia, and therefore of Eurasia too, because of their central geographical position.
Significantly, Uzbekistan has not been involved in any conflicts since independence, which represents a huge geopolitical success, in a difficult environment with terrorist forces in Afghanistan and regional ethnic rivalries that have been contained. Internal reforms must be gradual if the country is not to crack and avoid importing the many geopolitical fractures that are emerging at international level.
In the current new geopolitical configuration, the key areas for the stability of Eurasia are the European Balkans, the Caucasian Balkans and the Eurasian Balkans, but also the arc of crisis from the Mediterranean to Western Asia with Afghanistan, and the arc of crisis from the Arctic and Baltic to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The European states have an interest in the geopolitical stability of these different zones. Central Asia, bordering on Afghanistan, must remain a zone of stability, both for the countries of Central Asia and for the European states, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran and China. The geopolitical mistake made by the countries of the former USSR, which opted for a bloc policy by seeking to join NATO, is clear: they have become front states (Ukraine-Georgia) and are threatened by fragmentation and internal and external conflicts. This is a geopolitical lesson to be taken into account and shows the wisdom of Uzbekistan’s choice to remain outside military alliances.
As a doubly landlocked country, it is therefore in Uzbekistan’s interest to position itself as a territory connected to the Chinese Silk Roads, to participate in the Greater Eurasia project promoted by Russia and to cooperate with the European Union to promote cooperation projects on all fronts.
Helping Uzbekistan to successfully implement the New Uzbekistan is in the interests of the whole of Eurasia, but it is also in the interests of the countries of Europe following an election that will provide greater visibility and stability for the future of this region.