The history of the development of parliamentarism in Uzbekistan
1.1. The unicameral parliament from 1991-2004 and the transition to a bicameral parliamentary
A brief overview of the history of the parliament and the state-related institutional construction in Uzbekistan
makes one fact obvious; parliamentarism in Uzbekistan is a comparatively new trend and, therefore, improving
effectiveness of the legislative body, developing and strengthening a recently introduced bicameral model as well
as ensuring sustainable and qualitative operation of both the Legislative chamber and the Senate still remain
A new, post-soviet stage of establishment of a national parliament began after Uzbekistan declared its independence on 1st September, 1991. It was a complicated but successful and dynamic period when new national parliamentary traditions and peculiarities were taken into account along with a comprehensive analysis of the world parliamentarism.
It was a period of transition from one legal environment to a completely different one. The formation of a new state’s legal basis was not an easy process. One always had to think a step ahead and building a democratic state based on a market economy had to be done quickly and, most importantly, consistently.
The complexity and unique nature of this stage lie in the fact that implementing reforms and forming a new legal system as well as achieving assigned objectives had to be carried out simultaneously with the work on changing the political culture and improving the public’s legal awareness by setting new standards, and working towards improving the standard of living. The aim was for individuals to play a more active part in society, secure basic human rights, create more opportunities for citizens and secure the rule of law. This phase is still ongoing; the country is staying on its chosen path, learning from other countries’ experiences and relying on its own historic roots.
Today the newest history of one of the most important institutions of state power, the Oliy Majlis (a national parliament), is broken down into three main periods.
The first period: 1991-1994, the second period: 1995-2004, the third period: from 2005 up now.
The First period: 1991-1994,
The Supreme Council of last convocation, which may be called a parliament of a transitional period, adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which became a legal basis for the creation of new bodies of the governmental structure, building a democratic civil society with a socially oriented economy. The Parliament adopted a number of laws aimed at strengthening the sovereignty of the young state such as «On Fundamentals of the State Independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan», «On Election of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan», «On State Anthem of the Republic of Uzbekistan», «On the State Flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan», «On Elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan» and other legal acts.
On September 23, 1994, the sixteenth session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted a Resolution to conduct the first elections to the Oliy Majlis on December 25, 1994. The elections, held in three rounds (25th December 1994, 8th and 22nd January 1995), resulted in a parliament consisting of 245 elected deputies. The elections were held on a multiparty basis.
The Second Period: 1995-2004
The Second period began in 1995 and lasted ten years. A new unilateral parliament of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Oliy Majlis, was established in place of the Supreme Council. During the First Convocation of the Oliy Majlis (1995-1999) the parliament was represented by deputies from four political parties (People’s Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, Social Democratic Party «Adolat» (justice), «Vatan Taraqqiyoti» (Development of the fatherland) and «Milliy Tiklanish» (National revival). The remaining deputies were supported by bodies of representative branches.
This time 5 political parties participated in the elections to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan of the Second Convocation (2000-2004) since a new National Democratic Party «Fidokorlar» (Patriots) came into the political arena. Moreover, it was not just the bodies of representative branches of power and political parties who took part in these elections but initiative groups of voters as well, which characterized a progressive development of the national parliament into a democratic body of people’s representation. There were 250 deputies, 13 committees and 3 standing commissions in the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan of the Second Convocation.
Though the unicameral parliament of that period was not a professional one working on a permanent basis (as a rule parliament convened four times a year) but it was a body that stood out because of its dynamic way of doing business and resolving important legislative tasks in the absence of a legal basis. There was an urgent need for a legal basis in the qualitative sense during that time; which is why the legislative function prevailed over all the parliament’s activities.
From 1995 to 2004, the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted 240 laws, introduced 1573
amendments to the existing legal acts and ratified more than 130 international treaties and agreements. During
this phase, the supreme legislative body worked mainly on adopting laws to strengthen the state’s sovereignty,
civil peace and social stability as well as to intensify democratic and socio-economic reforms in the country. As
a result, the parliament managed to considerably enlarge and strengthen the legal basis of independent development
of the country along the path of democracy and progress.
Parliamentary control became the most important area of activity of the unicameral Oliy Majlis as the second main function of parliament by its essence, within the framework of which committees and commissions could consider nearly 60 issues annually in the course of monitoring the implementation of laws, conventions and national programs.
An overall analysis of the lawmaking function of the unicameral Oliy Majlis highlights the following distinct features:
First, as the country entered into new stages of development and the practice of law administration there was an increased tendency to improve laws that had been adopted previously;
Second, the lawmaking process became more branch-based trying to introduce legal regulations with regard to specific spheres;
Third, legal acts drafted and introduced to the floor (parliament session) jointly by several committees and commissions increased in number;
Fourth, More and more representatives of NGO’s, self-governed institutions of citizens, scientists, experts, unions of workers and business circles became involved in the law drafting process, which was an indication of development of the public relations of the parliament.
Transition to a bicameral parliament and establishment of the chambers of the Oliy Majlis of the
Republic of Uzbekistan (December 2004 - January 2005).
The national referendum as an important reform, initiated by the President of the country in the sphere of state construction and transition from the unicameral to the bicameral parliament based on amendments made to the Constitution and fundamental constitutional laws resulted in establishment of both chambers of the country’s supreme legislative body, the Legislative Chamber (the lower chamber) and the Senate (the upper chamber) in January 2005.
Elections to the Legislative Chamber and representative bodies at a local level was the first step in the formation of both chambers and resulted in 120 people’s deputies being elected to the lower chamber of the Oliy Majlis.
The upper chamber of the Parliament, the Senate, was established in the second half of January 2005 based on the principle of territorial representation following the elections of deputies of the Djokarghi Kenes of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, and Kengashes at the regional, district and city levels. At that time they supported and elected 84 members of the Senate in their joint sessions, and 16 senators were appointed by Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan from among the most prominent citizens of the country with broad experience and special merits in science, literature, production and other spheres of the state and social life.
The history of parliamentary development testifies that elections to the Oliy Majlis were based on representation of all people of Uzbekistan as a whole by means of putting forward parliamentary candidates from political parties and initiative groups of voters, and also by involving local representative bodies representing regional interests in this process. It can be said, therefore, that the legislative branch of power at that time was ready for the transition to the bicameral system and professional parliament in the qualitative sense.
The third period of parliamentary development began with the joint session of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate on January 28, 2005. It was then that deputies and senators actually began their term in office. During this historical forum Islam Karimov, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan delivered a strategy speech, in which he outlined a concept of democratization and renewal of society, as well as suggested key objectives of reforming and modernizing the country in 2005 and in the long-term Establishment of the bicameral parliament moved the legislative branch on to the next step of its evolution.
The highest legislative body became a classically professional, national and representative body with a broad range of functions and powers. The transition to a new parliamentary model enabled the parliament to become a body of institutionalization of interests important for the country and society, as a body exercising control, demanding that existing laws be implemented and closely cooperating with the corps of deputies at a local level.
Undoubtedly, the quality of laws adopted improved although the lawmaking process itself became significantly more complicated.
The active work of political party fractions in the new environment of a bicameral system, as well as the existence of pressing issues and new challenges were among the factors which defined the importance of adopting the Constitutional law «On strengthening the role of political parties in renewal and further democratization of the state authority and modernization of the country» in 2007, which was introduced to the parliament by Islam Karimov, the President of Republic of Uzbekistan by way of legislative initiative.
The Parliament had already gained experience in the preliminary consideration of bills because political
party fractions are obliged to take their opinions into account during debates over legal acts in the plenary
sessions of the Legislative Chamber. The fact that a joint control and oversight activity was conducted by both
chambers to ensure interaction between the Senate and regional bodies of representative branches legislatively
became yet another of the national parliament’s considerable achievements.
Today according to the practice of lawmaking process, first laws are considered and then passed in the Legislative Chamber in three readings. Usually in the first reading legislators approve a general concept and principal provisions of a bill, in the second reading they consider every article in great detail and vote on them separately, and in the third reading they debate the draft bill as amended. After this a law passed by the lower chamber is submitted to the Senate for approval.
The role of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis is apparent when the upper chamber debates laws passed by the lower chamber, placing an emphasis on how the interests of all regions of Uzbekistan are reflected in them. By doing this it serves as a special «filter» aimed at ensuring the legal harmonization of regional and national interests.
A joint activity of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of the Oliy Majlis in 2005-2007 resulted in the adoption of 96 laws. Several dozens of new bills and laws are currently being examined in the committees and commissions of both chambers, which are to be considered during the next plenary sessions.