Democracy Working Well In Uzbekistan, Says Malaysian Election Commission Deputy Chairman

From Nor Faridah A. Rashid
TASKHENT, Dec 29 (Bernama) — Uzbekistan’s electoral process for its parliamentary elections held Sunday was in accordance with international standard, Malaysia’s Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said.
“Democracy is working very well in Uzbekistan and I am glad to say that the electoral process followed international standard,” he told Bernama Monday night after the full results of the elections were announced.
“To me the important thing I notice is democracy is working very well in Uzbekistan and although we did not have the opportunity to see the process of campaigning as we arrived late and did not get much opportunity also to see the process of vote counting, but in respect of the process of voting, I am glad to say that it follows international standards,” he added. Wan Ahmad and three other Malaysians, together with some 270 foreign observers from 36 countries, were invited to monitor the elections for new members of Uzbekistan’s Oliy Majlis lower chamber of parliament.
Uzbekistan’s Central Election Committee (CEC) chairman, M.Abdusalomov, had said that the observers were invited to ensure the “openness” of the elections.
Wan Mohamed said Uzbekistan had followed the international standard in respect of the election in that firstly, voting was secret and secondly, it was “free and easy” where it was entirely up to the voters to select the candidates of their choice.
The third aspect was that it had to be witnessed by observers representing the political parties so that the entire process was within the scrutiny of representatives of the parties participating in the election.
“And more so in Uzbekistan, the international observers were allowed to witness everything from the voting process and I witnessed the entire steps from the beginning until the end of the process and it followed the international standard,” he said.
Uzbekistan, the most populous nation in Central Asia with some 27 million people, declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Observers also noted the high voter turnout where more than 15 million people or 87.8 per cent out of the 17 million eligible voters cast their votes as announced by Abdusalomov.
Wan Ahmad said the figure was very high and voters went to the polls despite the cold weather and the country’s difficult landscape like terrains.
“In that respect, we should congratulate the people of Uzbekistan for believing in democracy because they believe in the process of election. If they don’t, if they do not trust the process of election they won’t come out,” he added.
“The fact that they came out to vote clearly proved that they trust the electoral process and they believe in democracy.” He added.
He also congratulated the people of Uzbekistan and the government for encouraging its people through various channels and to educate them to come out to vote as well as the CEC for doing a good job and putting up a very comprehensive and good electoral role .
On the high turnout, he said that even in Malaysia the average turnout is between 73 and 75 per cent.
“Despite the good communication system, the huge publicity and (the fact that) people are educated and aware of the election and look forward (to it) we are not getting easily 80 per cent,” he said.
Another Malaysian observer, S.Radhakrishnan, who is honorary secretary of Asean Law Association of Malaysia, said that for a young country like Uzbekistan, the turnout was indeed commendable.
The other two Malaysian observers were Perdasama president Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir and senior lawyer Kamarudin Ahmad.
Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, Department of International Relations Deputy Director Zakhid A. Salikhov said that the government had put in a lot of effort to make its citizens realise the importance of the parliamentary elections.
“It is a very important political event where the citizens now get to choose their leaders,” he told Bernama.
He said that the government had paid particular attention to preparations for the parliamentary elections.
Reports said that the previous parliamentary elections in 2004 recorded 85.1 per cent voter turnout. Uzbekistan has a minimum voter turnout threshhold of some 30 per cent.
The four parties which contested were the People’s Democratic Party, Adolat (Justice) Social Democratic Party, Liberal Democratic Party (Movement of Entrepreneurs and Businessmen) and the Milliy Tiklanish (National Revival) Democratic Party.
According to reports, Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who earlier this month described the elections as a test of democracy, said the polls showed that Uzbekistan was “moving towards the establishment of a democratic society.”
Karimov has ruled Uzbekistan for the past two decades after becoming Communist party head in 1989 under the Soviet Union and then its first post-independence president in 1991.
Uzbekistan, a country of 447,400 sq km, is surrounded by Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
It is the most populous of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and has large gas and oil reserves, is among the world’s top 10 gold producers and the second largest exporter of cotton, and has large uranium reserves.
Uzbekistan’s diplomatic relations with Malaysia began in 1992.