By V. Sankara
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 (Bernama) — Despite several criticisms made by the West, Malaysian observers who witnessed Uzbekistan’s presidential election on Dec 23 found it to be democratic, transparent, peaceful and fair.
Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar who headed a six-man Malaysian observer team to monitor the election said international observers were given the freedom to choose the locations in making their observations.
The election, he said was conducted in 14 regions of Uzbekistan with 8,250 polling centres and that some 16 million people out of its 26 million population were eligible to vote.
Wan Ahmad also said Malaysian observers were given qualified interpreters to communicate with the voters there.
“In this aspect, it was very easy to gather details from the voters,” he told Bernama.
Commenting on the ballot boxes, Wan Ahmad said transparent ballot boxes were used in the election.
“It was very easy to scrutinize since everything was transparent,” he said.
In Malaysia, Wan Ahmad said transparent ballot boxes will be used for the first time in the impending 12th general election.
The Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan extended invitations to 250 international observers from more than 30 countries to attend and observe the country’s presidential election.
“Our selection by Uzbekistan shows that they respect and recognize our experience in the conduct of electoral democracy… which we should feel proud of.
“Not only Uzbekistan… other countries like Kazakhstan,Krygyzstan, Mali, Nepal, Bosnia, Indonesia also extended similar invitations enabling the Malaysian Election Commission to boost ties with these countries,” said Wan Ahmad.
Another observer, S. Radhakrishnan, said he was deeply impressed with the special arrangements made by the Uzbek government to help the elderly to cast their votes.
“Election officials took the ballot papers to their homes to enable them to vote. This is commendable. We in Malaysia should introduce a similar practice,” he noted.
Radhakrishnan, who is also Malaysia Inner Temple Alumni Association secretary, added that he was impressed with the way voters were rewarded when casting their votes for the first time.
“All those who voted for the first time upon attaining the age of 18 years were given a gift at their respective polling centres when they went to cast their votes,” he said, adding that it was done to encourage young citizens to register as voters and discharge their obligation.
“It must be borne in mind that voting is not compulsory in Uzbekistan,” he said.
Uzbekistan has universal voting for men and women aged 18 and above, who also elect their regional, district and municipal council representatives at the same time.
Meanwhile, another observer, Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir, who is the president of the Malay Businessmen and Industrialists Association of Malaysia (Perdasama), said it was a very good experience to note how elections were conducted in Central Asia.
“The Uzbekistan election was conducted in a very orderly manner and everything went smoothly. I was even given a chance to snap pictures during the polling and would like to very much share my collection (of photographs) with other Malaysians,” he said.
On Dec 24, the Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Uzbekistan announced that according to preliminary results, the incumbent president, Islam Karimov, had secured more than 80 per cent of all the votes cast.
The other three candidates who contested secured less than 2 per cent of the votes each.
The final result of the election is expected to be known soon.
Uzbekistan Election Fair, Say Malaysian Observers
By V. Sankara