UZBEKISTAN The ‘new’ Mirziyoyev and Uzbekistan’s old problems

In perfect Soviet style, when he reformed the Constitution, the president canceled his two previous terms and now – re-elected in an almost plebiscitary manner – he will be able to remain in charge of the country until 2037. The only real change is the attitude towards the Uzbeks who emigrated abroad for reasons of work, who are no longer despised. He now calls them the “new heroes”, but he would rather see them in London than in Moscow.

Tashkent () – The President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, took the solemn oath at the inauguration of his new term, which he obtained with an almost plebiscite consensus in the early elections on July 10. As a result of the constitutional changes, the time of his two previous terms has been canceled and he will now be able to remain at the helm of the country until 2037, exceeding 20 years in office (he was elected for the first time in 2016) and at 80 years of age, given that he was born in 1957.

The new Constitution is an instrument for redefining power, so that it corresponds to the programs of the leader in power, and in this sense it is a perfect Soviet legacy. Let us recall the constitutions of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, which also distinguish the political line of the periods of the Party secretaries. Russian President Vladimir Putin resumed the custom in 2020, introducing into the new fundamental law (which replaced Yeltsin’s) the principles by which Russia embarks on war against Ukraine and against the entire world, in defense of “traditional values”. ”. Putin’s zeroing should project it to 2032, although much will depend on the outcome of military operations.

The second example that inspired Mirziyoyev, decidedly closer in sensitivity and objectives, is the president of Kazakhstan, Kasym-Zhomart Tokaev, who was also re-elected this year after several turbulences that began in January 2022, even before the war in Putin. The objective of Tokaev, who when he reformed the Constitution did not need a “reset” because he has been in power for a short time, is to make deep reforms in the country, free himself from the caste linked to his predecessor, Nursultan Nazarbaev, and lead Kazakhstan “towards justice and democracy”.

In Uzbekistan no particular need for democracy is perceived, considering the autocratic habits that have been perpetuated in the thirty post-Soviet years. The turmoil is not lacking in the most populous state in Central Asia (more than 35 million inhabitants, compared to 20 in Kazakhstan), but it affects above all the mountainous areas of Karakalpakistan, easily tamed by the Uzbek army and those that have left in the limbo of a supposed autonomy. Mirziyoyev, on the other hand, insists on the need for the economic development of Uzbek society, but he is facing long-standing problems that he has only been able to solve in a small part so far.

Beyond the investments (Chinese, Russian, European, anyone who has something to contribute) in industry, energy production and infrastructure, and the great tourism marketing that Uzbekistan tries to deploy internationally, the main problem remains one, too of Soviet origin: labor emigration. The predecessor and founder of post-Soviet Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, exhibited a contemptuous attitude towards immigrants, typical of the old party bureaucracies: he considered them “lazy” who prefer to be servants of the Russians and contribute nothing to their country. The “new” president, on the other hand, immediately proclaimed that he wanted to include them in the internal economic dynamics, and promised to create millions of jobs.

However, the number of Uzbek immigrants in Russia and in many other countries shows no sign of abating, in fact, it has almost doubled, although the Tashkent government tries to ignore or deny these statistics. Officially at this moment there are 1.8 million migrant workers, while other sources speak of almost 5 million. Mirziyoyev calls them “our heroes” and promises a radical reform of the country’s labor market, an announcement he repeated in his recent re-election.

But this time the president is not offering a job in his homeland, but rather full reimbursement of tickets and work visas to go to countries more developed than Russia, perhaps England, where Uzbek immigrants are increasingly more welcome. Uzbekistan’s great economic development is slow to kick off, and Mirziyoyev’s “eternal presidency” slowly adjusts to the traditional rhythms of exploitation by foreign alliances, waiting to see how the current conflicts end.

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