Uzbekistan, the jewel of Central Asia with over 35 million inhabitants, is poised for its upcoming presidential elections on July 9. The nation, which embarked on several transformative journeys since its 1991 independence, witnessed a significant metamorphosis beginning in 2016. This transition was under the leadership of the current president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. With an impressive track record and overwhelming public endorsement, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is optimistic about continuing his reformative agenda if given a second term.
In a bold move earlier this year, Mirziyoyev initiated a referendum that sought approval for modifications to the 1992 constitution. This was in line with the ongoing shifts within the nation. Remarkably, two-thirds of what is now known as the “social constitution” was updated to enhance citizen rights, strengthen the rule of law, and underscore aspects such as gender equality.
A noteworthy amendment is the extension of the presidential tenure. The term now spans seven years, replacing the previous five-year duration. With this recalibration, Mirziyoyev can potentially govern for an additional 14 years. To solidify his standing and seek the people’s reaffirmation, he astutely called for snap elections in May, well ahead of the expiration of his current term. The prevailing sentiment suggests a landslide victory in his favor.
Flashback to the 2021 elections: bne IntelliNews conducted interviews with Tashkent voters who unanimously expressed their appreciation for Mirziyoyev, particularly for actualizing his promises to enhance living standards. Within half a decade, Mirziyoyev not only liberalized the economic landscape but also transformed the political ecosystem. This was a stark departure from his predecessor, Islam Karimov’s authoritarian governance. Under Mirziyoyev’s vision, Uzbekistan emerged as an attractive prospect for foreign businesses, investments, and tourists, thanks to its rich cultural heritage.
Economic Reforms Galore
Central to Mirziyoyev’s strategic economic reforms is the privatization of state-dominated assets. An array of Uzbekistan’s prominent companies are earmarked for privatization, encompassing sectors from banking, aviation, metallurgy, to energy. This initiative is projected to woo foreign investors, stimulate the nascent local equities market, and consequently, spur economic growth. Budgetary provisions from these efforts are anticipated to amplify social expenditures.
Mirziyoyev’s sweeping reforms catalyzed an impressive GDP growth of over 5% annually, pushing it past the $80 billion mark. The nation also witnessed an unprecedented surge in exports, touching $19 billion in 2022. Additionally, foreign direct investments poured in, totaling around $8 billion in the same year.
The monetary landscape also witnessed a monumental shift. Mirziyoyev ensured the Uzbek soum achieved full convertibility, obliterating the erstwhile black market exchange menace. This strategic move was a boon for both residents and international stakeholders. Moreover, his relentless efforts in dismantling bureaucratic hurdles, alleviating taxation, and promoting foreign trade propelled Uzbekistan to the 69th position in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, a significant leap from its 146th spot in 2013.
Political Landscape Transformation
Mirziyoyev, with his extensive administrative expertise honed during his tenure as Prime Minister from 2003-2016, is no stranger to governance. His predecessor, Islam Karimov, despite being perceived internationally as an autocrat, enjoyed domestic popularity for his contributions to economic growth and living standards. Mirziyoyev, aligning with the essence of continuity, has augmented the reformative measures from his prime ministerial days and has introduced a slew of innovative policies while rectifying Karimov’s more oppressive strategies.
Mirziyoyev’s presidency onset in 2016 was marked by unexpected moves that resonated positively on the global stage. Notably, he released political detainees – a rarity among former Soviet Union nations. He then embarked on mending strained relationships with neighboring Central Asian countries, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Furthermore, he has been fostering diplomatic ties with global powers like the US, Europe, China, and Russia, underscoring Uzbekistan’s enhanced influence in the Eurasian region.
Administratively, Mirziyoyev optimized the federal structure by downsizing ministries and agencies, redirecting funds towards societal projects. The reformed constitution promises elevated governmental investment in crucial sectors like education and healthcare.
Environmental and Societal Renaissance
Historically, Uzbekistan grappled with severe human rights criticisms, especially concerning its forced labor practices in the cotton industry. Mirziyoyev’s administration eradicated this by granting farmers the freedom to sell their produce in the open market, subsequently privatizing the entire cotton sector.
Addressing environmental concerns, Mirziyoyev has outlined projects targeting sustainable agricultural practices, efficient water management, and renewable energy initiatives in collaboration with international partners. He envisions renewables constituting 30% of the nation’s power capacity by 2030.
Uzbekistan’s developmental strategy aspires to elevate its per capita GDP to $4,000 by 2030, laying the foundation for an upper-middle-income status. As the current term culminates in 2030, the forthcoming election is pivotal in determining the trajectory of Mirziyoyev’s visionary reforms and the realization of a rejuvenated Uzbekistan.