Uzbekistan's president-elect Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrives to attend his swearing-in ceremony in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Dec. 14, 2016.
The newly-elected President Shavkat Mirziyoyev won 88 percent of votes –in the past presidential elections Islam Karimov was also elected by an average of 90 percent of the vote. At first it seemed unlikely that Mirziyoyev would repeat the record of the former President, but Mirziyoyev succeeded, with strength and without any serious challenge, to show that his popularity was at the same level as that of Karimov, and he could pass through the transition period of power with minimal concern for legitimacy. In countries with authoritarian systems and leaders, the issue of succession has always been facing serious challenges, but the policy of Uzbekistan for at least the past 3 months showed that this assumption was not that valid, and even authoritarian countries can pass this critical historical stage, if a wisdom like that of Mirziyoyev is applied.
At the same time, Mirziyoyev, during his three-month interim presidency, combined the policy of preserving Karimov’s legacy in dealing with major powers and changing the regional relations with Central Asian countries. In addition, changes in the domestic sensitive sector - the issue of economy and livelihood of 32 million people in Uzbekistan - made many people inside the country optimistic about the future. In domestic political sphere, Mirziyoyev is clearly considered as an appropriate successor for Karimov, and no change seems to occur. Therefore, technically speaking, Mirziyoyev period can be considered as the combination between the policy of preserving the past situation and changing some infrastructures and key issues.
Although Mirziyoyev assumed the key post of Prime Minister in the past 13 years, he could not make any decision and implement it based on the tradition of totalitarian systems in Central Asian countries. Regarding this fact, to predict future trends, the basis of this analysis is Mirziyoyev’s performance and his announced plans during the previous three months.
According to Mirziyoyev’s campaign statements, in recent years, as the Prime Minister, he received comprehensive and targeted information about numerous economic problems and the solutions to get out of the present impasse. Now, as the President, he has freedom of action and access to specific resources, and need to make some change in the economic sphere by doing a series of economic reforms, and stimulating and creating the ground for commercial and business activities. He also added that in the light of the growth and development of small and medium-sized business, foreign economic activities can be considered on a larger scale.
In this regard, his three-month performance as the acting President can be mentioned. During this time, he dismissed some officials of different levels for dereliction of duty and neglect of ordinary people. To show he openly communicated with people, Mirziyoyev also launched a “virtual waiting room”. It is said that every citizen can convey their problems to the President through phone calls or via text messaging to the announced online system.
It should be noted that Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s views on the economy are different from Islam Karimov’s political-economic views. President of Uzbekistan, 59, is a supporter of the market economy, and understands the role of market relations and limitations of management procedures of market and, in general, the business. This is related to both small and medium-sized business and big business aiming at foreign economic activity.
In Uzbekistan, more than half a million young people graduate annually who need jobs. It is not surprising that the first bill Mirziyoyev signed was the “government policy on youth” focusing on employment. He also received the approval of Parliament for the “anti-corruption law” during this time. Besides, the law for facilitating terms of trade and (state-centric) economic liberalization should be also noted.
In any case, based on the actions performed during this period, the elected President of Uzbekistan has paid much attention to the issue of economic recovery in the area of internal affairs. In contrast, only once in a political speech did he briefly referred to current domestic policy issues, and strongly emphasized that he would follow Karimov’s chosen approach in the area of domestic policy issues.
Of course, this can also be attributed to structural requirements of the current society of Uzbekistan. In general, the unchallenged and uncontested election of Mirziyoyev as a successor to Karimov, and holding a quiet and peaceful election were much earlier decided on by elites in the game power when Karimov was still alive. In other words, one of the reasons for the lack of change in the field of domestic policy is the consensus among political elites who claim the power for maintaining the political status quo in order to keep their minimum share of governance. In case of conflict over the distribution of power, perhaps many of those who are now in power could not continue their political life. So the best option was to maintain the political status quo which is now implemented.
Mohammad Alavizadeh, an analyst of Central Asia Affairs, is the fellow at Research Institute of Eastern Iran
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