Minister of Justice Akbar Tashkulov answered questions at a press conference on Tuesday regarding the difficulty of registering political parties in Uzbekistan.
According to the Political Parties Law, registration of a party requires at least 20,000 signatures of citizens living in at least eight territorial entities, including Karakalpakstan and Tashkent.
The journalist who gave the question noted that recently there had been several attempts to register parties, but they had not been able to collect the required number of votes, which becomes a major barrier. According to her, in other countries less than 20,000 votes are required. She asked if the Ministry of Justice plans to reconsider this requirement for party registration.
“In our opinion, 20 thousand is not a lot. What proportion to the population is this? If the population is 36 million people, then this is less than 1%. This is very small, which is normal. We studied the experience of other countries. They are also not much different from us. Imagine if every 5,000 or 10,000 people could open their parties, how many parties would there be? They will not even reach the norm in the elections. Therefore, there are such barriers,” the minister said.
He underscored that a party was an organization that represents the interests of the majority of the population and their political and legal views, so "there are restrictions on the number [of signatures] all over the world."
According to him, the Ministry of Justice had not recently received requests to register the party. “It is necessary to comply with the order and requirements of the legislation… Let them unite 20,000 people, then there will be no questions. Signatures must be authentic,” said Akbar Tashkulov.
In June 2021, the Ministry of Justice refused state registration of the social democratic party Haqiqat va Tarakkiyot (Truth and Progress) due to an insufficient number of signatures and “violation of the requirements of laws on political parties and non-governmental non-profit organizations.”
Political analyst Kamoliddin Rabbimov, in his commentary, called the stance voiced by the Minister of Justice as "completely authoritarian and arbitrary."
“In Uzbekistan, for thirty years now, there has been an official five-party, and de facto one-party system. The reason why I say “one-party” is that the parties do not compete, and they cannot hold the government accountable at all,” he said.
Normally each political system has a fundamental philosophy, he emphasized.
“If the parties are numerous and active, then the people can oversee the state, parliament and executive power. If the creation of parties is complicated, then the elementary democratic mechanism is failed. According to the democratic rule, the people form parties, and freely put forward their ideas and programs in the elections, and if they get votes, they become the authorities,” wrote Kamoliddin Rabbimov.
He recalled that the number of signatures required to open a party in neighboring Kazakhstan was reduced from 20,000 to 5,000. Over the past three years, the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan has received 18 applications for the registration of new parties. Some of them registered and went to parliament.
“In Uzbekistan, whose population is twice as large, even after 2016 it was not possible to register a single party project. They are again justifying this barrier of 20,000 signatures. They also blame the society... The paranoia from the public is still there,” Kamoliddin Rabbimov concluded.