KEEPING ABREAST WITH THE TIMES
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President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s speech at a video conference on July 12 in the Oliy Majlis, which critically analyzed the performance of representative authorities and political parties, and set priorities to further streamline their work, caused a broad response in the society.
What was the response of people’s representatives, leaders and activists of political parties, public and state figures to criticism? Our public forum offers a review.
What did the head of state say?
It makes sense to recall the main points of the report first. The President pointed out to the fact that political parties had not achieved the full and effective fulfillment of the promises they gave to the electorate and their electoral programs, and still fail to firmly establish themselves in the socio-political life of the country.
This is an unprecedented negative assessment of the country’s leader, who substantiated it by the example of all the four parties in Uzbekistan.
Thus, the People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (PDPU), which positions itself as a defender of the interests of pensioners and low-income strata of the population, lacks the deeply thought-out initiatives to raise their living standards and strengthen their social activity.
Milliy Tiklanish Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, which sets a mission to revive and enrich national values, does not show any progress in these issues, either in improvement of legislation, or monitoring the implementation of legal acts in this field.
Adolat Social Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, which vows the provision of social justice, the protection of people’s interests in science, education and healthcare, in fact, shows no remarkable initiatives to uphold the rule of law and justice in society, improve medical care, education, and provide the population with medicines.
UzLiDeP, which is seen as the leading political force in our country, also does not meet the requirements of the electorate, its work to support entrepreneurs and farmers is completely insufficient.
Any political party can be considered a political force only when it keeps abreast of the times, and is capable to meet the current requirements, Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted. He also noted that the parties do not implement effective parliamentary and deputy control over the activities of ministries and departments through their factions and groups in representative authorities.
The meeting critically analyzed the dialogue of political parties with the people, the implementation of the Actions Strategy, advocacy, and awareness raising activities, cooperation with the media. Most of the appeals of the people to the parties and their advice on the ground are not considered, but redirected to the President’s Virtual Reception. Their work with young people is unsatisfactory, particularly with unemployed youth and with those who are not engaged in study or any other activities.
The President touched upon the activities of the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan. He noted that the EMU does not pay constant attention to the supply of potable water to the population, especially in rural areas, collection, processing and recycling household waste. The President put forward a proposal that representatives of the Eco-movement should work at all large enterprises of our country.
Time to Wake Up for MPs and Parties
It is worth recognizing that the people’s representatives and representatives of political parties responded with sufficient self-criticism. In their comments, they talked about the need to change the working methods and establish a dialogue with the population and the electorate, get rid of the former state of slumber, abandoning eloquent slogans, and gain the trust of the people and voters by actions.
In particular, the head of the UzLiDeP faction in the lower house of parliament Sodikjon Turdiyev frankly admitted that it is absolutely inappropriate to work in the former pace in the conditions of the current reality, that there is a need to be proactive and work with full dedication. It is important to cultivate entrepreneurial skills in each family, replace the fields with low cotton crops with high-yield crops that can be exported. That would undoubtedly contribute to the improvement of people’s wellbeing and export capacity of Uzbekistan. "We had insufficient initiative to come up with effective solutions in this area. We have made conclusions from critical remarks, and defined specific long-term objectives," the UzLiDeP leader emphasized.
“The President’s report provides an objective assessment of our activities. On the same day after the meeting, we received many phone calls. I myself felt how MPs ‘woke up’," said Sarvar Otamuratov, head of the Milliy Tiklanish faction. "It’s been nine years since the foundation of our party. And we must admit that we still do not have a clear position on most of the pressing issues. Much to our regret, our party lags behind the goals of the Action Strategy. For example, we failed to make changes to our program. So far, we cannot show our progress in advocacy of national culture, spirituality and enlightenment. There is a need to pay more attention to unengaged youth. Imam-hatibs hold meetings and conversations with those who mistakenly joined the religious movements.
Internal affairs agencies are involved in this work as well, while the party, unfortunately, lags behind. It is up to us to bring to the consciousness of the younger generation the relevance of studying the heritage of great ancestors, which is in tune with the goals and mission of the party. Therefore, we will intensify the advocacy of this idea.”
“Criticism towards political parties is fair. Indeed, we worked on paper in many ways. Being engaged in lawmaking, we did not ensure if the adopted laws are implemented on the ground, whether they protect the interests of the people and address the existing problems," emphasized the Head of the PDPU faction Hotamjon Ketmonov. “We will visit social infrastructure facilities more often, particularly hospitals and Mehribonlik mercy homes, delve deeper into the situation, work on elimination of shortcomings. While doing that, we will define clear tasks on introducing changes and amendments to the relevant laws, further development of the system, and expansion of the established benefits.”
He also noted that once PDPU finalizes a list of people with disabilities, the party will develop targeted projects to involve those who could actively participate in public life. It intends to seriously embark on one of the important areas, that is, elimination of dependency among low-income groups of the population. The issues of development of a system of inclusive education, including provision of disabled children with specialized literature and manuals, and further expansion of their opportunities in higher educational institutions will be in the spotlight.
“The tasks outlined in the President’s report are part of the Action Strategy," said Narimon Umarov, Head of the Adolat SDPU faction. "We consider them as strategic goals for ten, twenty years for our party and for society as a whole. We must admit that we are provided with ample opportunities. A member of our faction was appointed as Minister of Health, motivating us to implement the party’s objectives in this area. From now on, we will closely cooperate with the Ministry, strengthen the dialogue with the population and find solutions to existing problems. The staff issue is relevant for all sectors. We are not satisfied with our work in this direction, so we need to review the ranks of party workers and introduce criteria for their ethics.”
On Scientific Basis
As part of the President’s initiative at the videoconference meeting in the Legislative Chamber, the Parliament is establishing the Institute of Study of Legislation Problems. The MP Kahramon Ergashev tells about it in detail:
“The new structure will conduct scientific and practical, research, information and analytical activities, assist in drafting laws.
The Actions Strategy sets the objective to enhance the role and place of Parliament in the system of state authorities: it is called to provide an effective legal basis for all the scheduled reforms.
In the Year of Dialogue with the People and of Human Interests, direct communication with rural residents has become an important part of the control and analytical and legislative work of members of the Legislative Chamber and Senate of the Oliy Majlis. As of 2017, members of the lower chamber have been visiting regions of country every month for 10-12 days, assessing the real situation on the ground.
Such a mechanism is unconditionally important in the legislative process. On the one hand, MPs personally see the practical implementation of the adopted laws, problems and omissions, which are taken into account in further work. For example, Article 223 of the Administrative Liability Code established a penalty for violation of the passport system rules. The size of the fine was high enough for low-income citizens, and they did not hurry to improve the situation. The MPs carefully studied this issue during their trips to the districts, and initiated amendments to the legislation to reduce the size of the fine, clarifying its lower limit.
Having revealed a problem, the MPs have to carry out a technical study of the draft laws, study foreign experience. However, not all of them perfectly know the rules of legal technology. There are only 26% of legal experts among them. Therefore, the foundation of the Institute of Study of Legislation Problems under the Oliy Majlis promises to be an effective tool that would improve the quality of lawmaking activity, and strengthen the influence of the adopted laws on the course of socio-political, socio-economic, judicial and legal reforms.
The study of foreign experience shows the effective functioning of such institutions. In Greece, for example, the Parliament runs a Scientific and Expert Council, as well as a Department of Parliamentary Studies. The Division for Scientific Support and Coordination of Parliamentary Affairs in the Austrian Parliament Administration has a strong research orientation and cooperates with several Austrian universities and research groups. In the UK, there are no research institutions directly subordinate to the parliament. Nevertheless, the Parliament provides an annual grant to the Institute of History of Parliament for research, addresses other scientific institutions.
The Institute of Parliamentary Law was established in Spain in 1985, as a result of cooperation agreement signed between the Congress of Deputies and the Complutense University of Madrid. In Portugal, the Assembly of the Republic signed an agreement with Portuguese state universities in 1988, on the creation of a permanent system of mutual information and consultations on issues of mutual interest. The Parliament of Finland runs the Institute of International Relations. The Italian Chamber of Deputies cooperates with the universities of Naples, Pisa, Rome, Florence and private research organizations to carry out research and train staff for the Parliament.
The Institute of Study of Legislative Problems will raise the inter-parliamentary ties to a drastically new level; promote the improvement of legislation through the cooperation with research structures of representative bodies of other states. The Legislative Chamber has received more than 20 foreign delegations from the PRC, USA, Germany, Georgia, the Czech Republic, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Palestine this year. Five groups have been created for inter-parliamentary cooperation with Georgia, Kazakhstan, China, Lithuania and Kuwait. Their number will reach, allowing exchanging experience in lawmaking, control and analytical, information-educational activities.”
Objectives for the Future
The pressing issues that the head of state raised in his report at the video meeting in the Oliy Majlis, were discussed at the meeting of the International Press Club.
Members of the lower house of parliament, representing all factions of political parties and a group of MPs from the Ecology Movement, dwelled upon about the existing problems in the activities of representative authorities and political parties, their causes and conditions. The participants proposed on elimination of existing omissions and shortcomings, improvement of quality of performance of parliamentarians.
The speakers pointed out to the need to improve the legislative process by ensuring a broad discussion of the draft laws. The participants cited specific examples from international experience, parliaments and political parties of foreign countries like Britain, the United States, France, and the Republic of Korea. Experts, specialists, representatives of political parties and journalists also shared their views.
The meeting also highlighted the ways to renew the quality of activities of political parties, raise their authority among the population, especially young people.
The meeting raised such problems as promises of political parties to the electorate, monitoring of implementation of election programs, strengthening of cooperation between MPs and the media. People’s representatives noted that discussions of draft laws are held without any debates and or disputes between the factions, there is no competing environment between the democratic bloc in the parliament and the opposition factions.
Ultimately, the platform of the International Press Club empowered extensive discussions of challenges for the future, as well as ways and methods of their practical implementation.
Shortcomings in the Work with the Youth
Akmal Burkhanov, Member of the Legislative Chamber, Director of the Development Strategy Center:
The problems raised by the head of state are system-based. Monthly, the parliamentarians study the real state of affairs on the ground. However, the identified acute problems are not brought to the discussion on the sessions of local councils. For example, the Municipal Council of People’s Representatives held five sessions in the first half of the year in Tashkent alone. They considered 54 issues, but most were of organizational nature.
Some deputy groups in the local councils do not go deep into the essence of the issues under discussion. There are omissions in the work with the youth. For instance, the elections to the district councils of people’s representatives should take place in the capital this December. Each political party plans to nominate more than a thousand candidates, while young people do not make up even 10% of them. The parties should think over on how to catalyze the work with the public, making greater use of the Internet, social networking opportunities, constantly upgrading skills of their representatives, and establishing effective cooperation with their deputy groups.
Study Foreign Experience
Alisher Kurmanov, Chairman of a Senate Committee:
We have a very young democracy, it is only 26. So we all need to study the relevant foreign experience.
For example, the UK is considered the ‘mother’ of parliamentarism. There, if a party wins the elections, it forms the government. But the losing party remains and works in the so-called ‘shadow cabinet’. It finds mistakes in bills, and criticizes the ruling party. We need to develop a similar system in our country.
We Need a Radical Change
Sattor Rahmatov, Member of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis:
The election platforms of the parties specify the objectives and main thrusts they will work on. Prior to each election, the candidates come out with brilliant programs, make promises to address certain issues. However, on the ground, the electorate does not feel the role of the party in addressing pressing issues.
The point is that the main work is organized in the central apparatus, and the grassroots links remain passive. The activities of local, especially district councils of parties leave much to be desired. There is still a tendency for compulsory membership. This is a big problem in the formation of the staff reserve. So it turns out that prior to the elections, a party has no candidates to nominate, and is forced to nominate a non-party person, authoritative in the society. We need to radically change this situation.
Protecting Interests of the Population
Mukimjon Kirgizboev, Professor:
An organism called ‘political party’ does not function as a single whole today. Hence the question arises: can parties protect the social interests of the population? Of course, they can, and the way to protect the interests of the population is obvious - through the laws!
The head of state put forward a proposal to elect governors by the people. May the parties nominate their candidates for this post, and work more closely with the authorities.
When a Violin Falls to… Three Students
Feruza Mukhamedjanova, Deputy Chairperson of the Central Council of Milliy Tiklanish DPU:
The President’s report draws attention to the education of the younger generation and the need for greater involvement of the parties in this process. There is a vast space for action. 465 schools in our regions, which were built in 2004, have no libraries. In music schools, one violin is supposed for three students, and rubab is supposed for more than 50 students. We need to talk more with the population to solve problems in the education system.