The President of Uzbekistan amends the Constitution to extend his power

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History repeats itself in Uzbekistan, one of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Its president, Shavkat Mirziy贸yev, has promoted a constitutional reform, approved this Sunday in a referendum, which will allow him to remain in power until 2040. With an economically reformist attitude that has not translated into politics, Mirziy贸yev came to power in in 2016 after the death of the authoritarian Islam Karimov, who extended his mandate twice, also resorting to referendums, in 1995 and 2002.

90.21% of Uzbeks, the Electoral Commission said yesterday, supported at the polls the reform of the Magna Carta of that country of 35 million inhabitants, rich in raw materials such as gold, copper, uranium and natural gas, known for its cotton production.

Plans to reduce autonomy in Karakalpakistan sparked violent protests in 2022

The yes to the reforms allows Mirziy贸yev, 65, to continue in office in theory until 2040, when he will be 83 years old. His current term ends in 2026, and he would have to step down because, under current law, he cannot hold power for more than two terms in a row. But the reforms include starting computing from scratch. Another of the amendments extends his term from five to seven years.

Mirziy贸yev announced his reform plans in 2021, after being re-elected. He then said that the authorities will be based on a new principle: "Man, society, the State", in that order of importance and not the other way around. In exchange for more power for the current president, authorities say the reforms will make Uzbekistan a "welfare state."

Among other changes, the death penalty is abolished and greater legal protection is established, such as the concept of habeas corpus and protection against indefinite and illegal imprisonment.

During these years in power, Mirziyoyev has put an end to forced labor in the cotton fields, which included children. The measure has been applauded worldwide and will now also be included in the text of the Constitution.

In 2002, Karimov also made use of promises of social progress when criticizing his attempt to remain in power. There is another parallel. Karimov's referendum came months after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan. Uzbekistan and the countries of the zone became key allies for Washington's antiterrorist policy.

Now, Mirziy贸yev's Western partners could raise their eyebrows, but it won't be a big deal because they are seeking the support of ex-Soviet countries to isolate Russia.

Among the constitutional amendments, changes were also planned to reduce the autonomy of the province of Karakalpakistan, eliminating its right to independence. But those plans sparked violent protests in July 2022 that left at least 21 dead. Mirziyoyev later renounced those plans.

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