Uzbekistan’s constitution states that the country should be a secular, democratic republic with multi-party systems. The reality looks different. The political system has not undergone any fundamental changes since the country became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The 1992 Constitution provides for the president to be elected in general elections for a five-year term and may be re-elected at one time. This was put off by Islam Karimov, who was president from 1992 until his death in 2016. Karimov was elected president for the fourth time in 2015 (see Modern History). He circumvented the constitution with new legislation or by decree.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Uzbekistan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The government is subordinate to the president, who has the highest executive power. The president is the country’s commander-in-chief, appoints the government, controls the security service and has extensive powers to govern through decrees.
Parliament (oliy majlis) has two chambers and is, according to the constitution, the highest body of the state. In reality, it has a limited political role. The lower house (qonunchilik palatasi) has 150 members, of which 135 are elected in general elections for a five-year term and 15 members are appointed by the ecological party of the regime-loyal Uzbekistan. Of the 100 members of the upper house, 16 are appointed by the president and 84 by local assemblies.
Short for UZ by Abbreviationfinder, Uzbekistan is divided into twelve counties (viloyat) as well as the metropolitan area of Tashkent and the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, which has its own constitution, a supreme court and formal right to leave Uzbekistan after a referendum. In the Karakalpakstan there is an independence movement with some popular support, but it is considered unlikely that Uzbekistan would allow an exit.
There are five registered political parties, all of whom are loyal to the regime. Real opposition exists only abroad or in the form of armed resistance groups. Religious parties are not allowed.
Until the 2010 century, the People’s Democratic Party (Xalq Democracy Partiyasi) was the Karimov regime’s power apparatus and ruled Uzbekistan almost single-handedly. The party is a transformation of the old Communist Party during the Soviet era. The party is primarily responsible for strong presidential power, legal obedience and stability.
Since the 2009 elections, the business- friendly Liberal Democratic Party (Liberal-Democracy Partiyasi) has been the largest party in Parliament. The Liberal Democrats have almost taken over the role of leading support party to the regime.
Among the loyal parties are also Uzbekistan’s Democratic Party for National Renewal (O’zbekiston Milliy Tiklanish Demokratik Partiyasi), Social Democratic Justice Party (Adolat Sotsial Demokratik Partiyasi, Adolat) and Uzbekistan’s Ecological Party (O’zbekiston Ekologik Partiyasi).
Among the truly opposition political forces are Unity (Birlik), founded by intellectuals in Tashkent in 1988, and Freedom (Erk), formed during an outbreak of Unity in 1990. Both are secular parties with a democratic, almost liberal orientation and with the support of highly educated urban residents. Newer regime-critical movements include Free Peasants (Ozod Dehqonlar). All these parties have been banned and forced to go underground, and their leaders have fled the country.
The regime’s repression of the non-religious opposition has led to increased support for the banned Islamist movement the Islamic Liberation Party (Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami). The movement struggles to establish a caliphate, that is, an Islamic state, throughout Central Asia but claims to be against violence. The Islamic Liberation Party has strong support in the Fergana Valley and is considered a serious threat by the regime, which has imprisoned many of its supporters.
In Uzbekistan, in the early 1990s, domestic Islamist movements also emerged, which wanted to introduce Islamic Sharia law in the country. They were persecuted by the Karimov regime, and many members therefore fled across the border into Afghanistan. There, they formed the core of the guerrilla group Uzbekistan’s Islamic Movement (known by its English abbreviation IMU ; Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), which later during the 1990s participated in the civil war in Tajikistan and carried out raids into Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to overthrow the power there.
The IMU is classified by the United Nations and the United States as a terrorist organization, previously believed to have been part of Saudi Usama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network. Nowadays, the IMU is considered to have ties to the Sunni extreme movement IS. The Union Islamic Jihad, an outbreak group from the IMU, is also branded terrorist. Both operate from bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Disputed presidential election
President Karimov is re-elected with 88 percent of the vote in an election where all three challengers are loyal to the regime. According to the constitution, Karimov should not have had a candidate because he has already sat for two terms. The election is therefore strongly questioned by both opposition and independent election observers.
Mild EU sanctions
The EU is easing the sanctions imposed by the Union against Uzbekistan after the death toll in Andizhan, but at the same time expresses concern about the human rights situation in the country.
Regime critics are imprisoned
The regime critic Umida Nijazova is sentenced to seven years in prison for, among other things, having smuggled in “social destruction” literature.
UN representative refused entry
The regime refuses to allow the UN Commissioner for Human Rights in the country.
The President remains after the term of office
President Karimov’s seven-year term expires. However, he remains president without any constitutional change and without public debate.