Mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE ODIHR) published an interim report on 24 November on preparation to the elections of the President of Uzbekistan.

The current ODIHR elections observation mission in Uzbekistan is the seventh, but it is the first full-scale mission, with short-term observation of election day (4 December) proceedings.

The report, which covers the period from 2 to 20 November, analyses the election campaign and the election situation in Uzbekistan. The mission called the current elections “an important juncture for Uzbekistan after 25 years of independence under the same head of state”.

OSCE experts noted the changes in the electoral legislation of Uzbekistan after the previous presidential elections in March 2015, highlighting amendments that are based on previous ODIHR recommendations. This includes lowering of the quantity of supporting signatures required for candidate registration from 5% to 1% of voters nationwide and an obligation for the Central Election Commission (CEC) to publish its resolutions on the official website.

Following the call for the presidential election, the CEC adopted and posted on its website 55 decisions. To facilitate independent participation and further protection of electoral rights of voters with disabilities, the CEC passed a regulation addressing the needs of persons with disabilities. For the first time, some ballots will be printed in braille, a tactile writing system, the report noted.

Describing the election campaign itself, the experts drew attention to presidential candidates use of videoconferencing for the first time in history to reach a higher number of voters. At the same time, the ODIHR experts said there were no debates yet between the candidates, although debating is foreseen in legislative amendments introduced last year.

Representatives of the OSCE mission noted the similarity of strategies used by the candidates to promote their electoral programs. “The prevalent campaign discourse stresses continuity and stability during this unprecedented transition of power,” said the report.

The authors also point to a number of shortcomings in the electoral process, in particular, absence of a single electronic register of voters. According to the Central Election Commission, such register is currently being developed and should be fully functional by the next elections in the country.