Uzbekistan to run delayed referendum

TASHKENT/DEC. 21 2022 (The Bulletin) — Uzbekistan rescheduled a delayed referendum that triggered the worst anti-government protests in a generation for the Spring.

Government sources said that referendum’s headline motion — to extend the presidential term in office to seven years and reset it to allow Pres. Shavkat Mirziyoyev to extend his rule — would be retained.

This will bring Uzbekistan’s presidential terms of office in line with neighbour Kazakhstan, which tweaked its constitution in 2022. Opponents have said that this makes a mockery of any democratic ideals as seven years is one of the longest presidential terms in the world.

Officials confirmed to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that plans to dilute the supposed autonomy of Karakalpakstan in the remote west of the country would still be scrapped.

In the initial referendum document posted in 2022, the Uzbekistan government wanted to scrap Karakalpakstan’s right to secede.

This set off protests in Nukus, the regional capital, which were crushed by the security forces. At least 21 people died and hundreds were arrested. Analysts said that although the referendum tweaks may have been the spark, frustration over growing inequalities was the real reason for the protests.

Under pressure from human rights groups, the government has released many of the people detained in police sweeps after the protests. Even so, the trial of 22 people accused of terrorism and leading an attempted coup has gone ahead, although several hundred miles away in Bukhara.

And what started as an open trial has shifted to being staged behind closed doors. 

The most high-profile defendant is Dauletmurat Tajimuratov. He is a journalist and was accused of firing up crowds with speeches .

He has said that the Uzbek police of beating him and the Switzerland-based World Organisation Against Torture said that Mr Tajimuratov should be “immediately and unconditionally release him and guarantee his right to a fair trial”.


— This story was published in issue 532 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Jan. 16 2023

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2023

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