Fariddin Nasriyev: ‘A popular Constitution is going to be adopted in the Republic of Uzbekistan for the first time’
Over 10,000 people can participate in a voting on a package of amendments to the Constitution in the republic’s Consulate General in Kazan
A national referendum on a package of a number of changes and additions to the Constitution will be held in Uzbekistan on 30 April. If citizens in favour it, the republic’s main law will significantly change thanks to the appearance of new norms legally fixing President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s reforms. Consul General of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Kazan Fariddin Nasriyev told Realnoe Vremya in an interview why every Uzbekistan citizen must cast a vote at the constitutional referendum and how the citizens living in Russia could do it.
65% of the text of the main law updated on the basis of the population’s proposals
Mr Nasriyev, the voting within the constitutional referendum on changing the Constitution of Uzbekistan will be on 30 April. How is it going to be?
The Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan was adopted in 1992, and only the parliament of the republic — Oliy Majlis — used to make amendments to it. We will have a big political event on 30 April. Since last year, citizens of Uzbekistan have made a lot of offers to change the republic’s Constitution. We can say a popular Constitution will be adopted in the Republic of Uzbekistan for the first time. It was written and chosen by the people.
A constitutional commission that collected and generalised citizens’ addresses was created in May 2022. It included deputies, senators, scientists, specialists, active citizens. At the first stage of preparation of the Constitution’s draft, citizens made over 60,000 proposals. At the second stage, there were received over 150,000 opinions. At the same time, after the nationwide discussion, another 10,000 proposals were received. On the basis of the people’s proposals, the number of articles in the Constitution’s draft rose from 128 to 155, the number of norms did from 275 to 434. In other words, 65% of the text of the main text was updated on the basis of the population’s proposals.
The referendum of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the draft of the Constitutional law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan is scheduled for 30 April. This means that the citizens who permanently or temporarily are on the territory of the Russian Federation can cast their vote for the draft of amendments both here, in the Consulate General in Kazan on 30 April and during the preliminary voting.
We understand that not everybody will be able to come here and vote. Somebody lives far away, it is not convenient for some on that day. But citizens want and should have the opportunity to use their constitutional right. Due to this, we are going to the places where our citizens densely live and study ourselves. It is universities, factories, plants and so on. These events will take place in more than 50 Russian regions. Let’s say, employees of the Consulate General are going to Samara Oblast, Orenburg Oblast, Bashkortostan, Perm Krai, Chuvashia, Mari El, Udmurtia, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and Tatarstan districts and cities. We are going to visit all the districts where our citizens work or study. And on 30 April, voting day, our polling stations will be open in consulates general from 8 to 20: in Kazan, Rostov on Don, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and in the embassy in Moscow.
How can citizens of Uzbekistan learn the draft of amendments before they vote in favour or against?
The draft was published on public resources, in newspapers, we send the text on request of our citizens in all the languages used in the Republic of Uzbekistan, including Uzbek, Russia, Karakalpak and others.
You know, citizens evaluate it positively both before and after the familiarisation with the draft. When I learnt it fully myself, I understood that we should have made such amendments much earlier. For instance, this is one of the articles. Now any government agency or hokimiyat (Editor’s note: regional administration) cannot interfere in universities’ activities. Higher educational organisations have the right to academic freedom, self-administration, freedom of research and teaching in accordance with the law. Now nobody can force somebody to collect cotton, sweep the streets or do another job. Nobody can engage children in labour, take them from classes. Any forced labour or any forms of child labour are strictly forbidden. This is Article 44. There was no such thing earlier.
Such situations such a deficit of seats for children in kindergartens, a reduction or an absence of state grants for higher education will remain in the past, it is established that the state creates conditions to develop pre-school education and training. Citizens have the right to get a higher education at the expense of the state on a competition basis. These are Articles 50 and 51.
Does it turn out that the draft of the new Constitution speaks about people’s rights more than the old Constitution did?
Yes, it is popular constitution. The whole sense is that everything is for the people. The new draft reads that people with restricted freedom will have the total respect and right to save honour and dignity. A person’s criminal record cannot be a foundation to restrict his or her relatives’ rights. Nobody can destroy other’s house or build something without authorisation. It is fixed that nobody can be divested of home if not according to the court’s rule and in accordance with law.
Not the people for the state, but the state for the people
Can you tell us in detail how the preliminary voting is going to take place?
It is going to be held in places where our citizens densely live or study. It is a commission consisting of members of the polling station’s Electoral Commission. Our polling station is number 34. Commission members are workers of the Central Electoral Commission of Uzbekistan who are despatched from the republic here. Employees of the consulate and our active citizens are involved too: students, specialists, entrepreneurs, activists who expressed their desire. They will have sealed ballot boxes and protected ballots a citizen is provided with after showing a document providing his or her identity. Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan older than 18 years can vote. A citizen votes secretly in a closed polling booth, folds the ballot and puts into the box. Electronic voting isn’t used. On 30 April, we will open in the Consulate General at 8 am.
It has already been decided where exactly we will go. We had been collecting proposals since last year. Those organisations that expressed their desire to organise preliminary voting themselves asked us to come. We made a schedule. We are going to preliminary voting to universities even here in Kazan. It is convenient for citizens, for students, why not.
On 30 April evening, after the polling stations closes, the ballot boxes will be opened and the votes will be counted under a protocol. This isn’t our first experience. It is going to the third voting here in Kazan alone. We had parliamentary elections in 2019, presidential elections in 2021. More than 10,000 citizens participated in them. We know and understand the procedure, organise it well. I think more people will be participating in this voting this time because more people know about us, about the voting itself and because we held it in spring. The previous elections were in December and October — the period when many of our citizens were going home. Now many citizens work or study here.
Can you tell us, please, why is it important for all citizens of Uzbekistan to cast a vote in the draft of amendments?
Because the new Constitution and those changes happening in the republic are a step into the future. We say it is a new Uzbekistan, not the one that existed just six or seven years ago. As President Shavkat Mirziyoyev says, not the people for the state, but the state for the people. The president’s reception room is for citizens, there is another one for entrepreneurs, those conditions created for our citizens living outside Uzbekistan — everything is done for the good of our citizens.
Is the Constitution exercised in Uzbekistan in practice? Is it really the main law?
For every country, the Constitution is the main and fundamental law. It is followed without exception. It is really exercised. The new Constitution will really change the legal order in our country. This is why it is important for every citizen of Uzbekistan to express their opinion about the package of amendments.
Who is going to count the results of the referendum and how?
The Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan is going to count the votes. The count will be controlled by observers, local and international ones. There are observers from CIS countries, including from the Russian Federation.
You are an authoritative person, a consul general. Could you tell us your personal opinion about the amendments. How do you assess them personally?
When we talk with our citizens, I tell them: “Look at all the clauses in the draft, all this is for you.” Everybody will find something they needed. Basically registration. Earlier, it was impossible to be registered in Tashkent, it was prohibited. Or housing demolition, medical advice.
Petitions of ordinary citizens about long-lasting problems became a prerequisite for making the amendments. Let’s say, a father or son was condemned, earlier, there were imposed restrictions on their close relatives’ work. How come? Why should a father be held accountable for his son or vice versa? It is elementary things, you know. Now they are added to the Constitution. It is good. Every citizen will feel confident about tomorrow.
Does the administration of Tatarstan provide assistance with the voting?
Taking advantage of the occasion, I want to express my deep gratitude to the management of the Republic of Tatarstan and Rais of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov for the assistance in holding the events at top level, for providing facilities where preliminary voting can be held in districts. It is a People’s Friendship House in some places, Culture Centres in others — the areas are provided free.
Uzbekistan is absolutely different
Constitutional reforms have recently been held in Eurasia in a number of countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others. Changes in the countries’ main laws are somehow similar and different. How can you evaluate these transformations as an experienced diplomat? What do they lead to and what they are conditioned by?
We can say a lot about history, the formation of independence of the republics. But as for Uzbekistan, the republic itself changed very much, for the better, after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected. This cannot go unnoticed, and absolutely all peoples and countries note this without exception. We opened, Uzbekistan solved those problems it had with our neighbours, close and remote ones. We have no problem unsolved. There aren’t any unresolved disputes. Everything ended peacefully and friendly. You know our politics in Central Asia, we have very warm relations with all the closest friends, neighbours. Uzbekistan is completely different.
Earlier, there wasn’t any currency exchange. There were certain restrictions on entrepreneurship. There was a restriction on citizens’ mobility to travel abroad. There was a sticker one had to obtain deliberately to travel abroad. It had to be renewed once in two years. The state must permit the entrance, only then you go for a visa to a foreign country’s embassy. Have you ever heard this? In which country of the world? These are isolated countries, and we were among them. There was such a situation before 2016. How many of our citizens work or study abroad — a lot. They all had to go to the embassy of Uzbekistan to Moscow to get documents. It was very hard, long queues. Consulates general opened in every region in 2018-2019 — it is for ordinary citizens. We issue all types of documents — passports, driving licences. There is no need to go to get them. The state creates these conditions, works for its citizens.
“The republic itself changed very much, for the better, after President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected.”
Now it is time to make changes to the main law of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The amendments that are going to be made at the national constitutional referendum of the Republic of Uzbekistan were not born at some constitutional commission but were initiated by the people itself. We add to the Constitution what concerns it, what changes the people wants. Now Uzbekistan has even an open budget, that’s to say, citizens and municipalities can distribute some expenses as they wish.
Mr Nasriyev, we know that some people who left Russia last year headed to Uzbekistan. Do you have the information about their amount? How many of them decided to obtain the citizenship of Uzbekistan?
I don’t have such information because I am here, in Kazan, and we work for citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan. But I can tell you for sure that twice more Russian tourists arrive now in the Republic of Uzbekistan than before. 150-200,000 tourists on average used to come to our republic from Russia, more than half a million Russians did last year. This year we expect more than a million Russians. We have all types of holidays, there are more and more flights. We are happy about it — many will discover a new Uzbekistan. Everybody will see the positive changes. Now we and the Russian Federation have an agreement where citizens can stay in our country for two weeks without registration, one has to register at the place of residence during this time. One can accommodate not only at hotels but also stay with the friends, relatives, at camps now. This used to be prohibited — only at hotels. This is also convenience. Our prices are lower than here, they are comfortable for tourists.