For the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, a very convenient situation has developed in the legal field, since he is not responsible for the amendments to the constitution, which proposed to deprive the country's largest province of Karakalpakstan of sovereignty and exclude the possibility of its secession from the republic. Rustam Burnashev, an expert on security issues in Central Asia, political scientist, told The Insider about this. He specified that the situation in the sovereign republic had already stabilized, but a rally was planned there on July 5, which is now impossible due to the introduction of a state of emergency. The political scientist believes that it is impossible to predict the further reaction of the population:
“Even before the introduction of the state of emergency, on July 5, a rally was to be held in Nukus, already agreed with the administrative structures. Now it is not clear whether they abandoned it or not. It is clear that this is a critical event, because the consent was given, but then a state of emergency was introduced. Legally, it should not take place, it is not clear how the population will react.”
The expert also clarified that Karakalpakstan, according to the constitution, is not an autonomous, but a sovereign republic, this status is “much more stringent”. According to him, a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan with the right to withdraw from it through a referendum looks very strange. At the same time, according to Burnashev, in Karakalpakstan the question of the possibility of using the article of the constitution on secession from Uzbekistan has never been raised at the systemic level. However, the very fact of the presence of this article determined how the population of the republic perceived and identified itself. The political scientist added that, in addition to dissatisfaction with the amendments to the constitution, there are indignations in Karakalpakstan for other reasons:
“Being a citizen of Uzbekistan, I can be wrong about how people present themselves there and how they live. Without being in this society, it is very difficult to objectively assess the situation. But it is obvious to me that there is a very difficult ecological situation in Karakalpakstan. In fact, this is the epicenter of the Aral catastrophe associated with the drying up of the Aral Sea and the lack of water resources - this is depressive agriculture, the transformation of economic life over thirty years, fish farming disappeared, [there were] quite serious health problems, especially among children, because salinity is very high. Yes, Tashkent is trying to solve these problems, but they still remain. It is clear that Tashkent is not to blame for them, but this may be the basis for discontent.
There is also a problem with infrastructure accessibility, because the region is remote and communication with Tashkent is difficult, you can even see it on the map - the distance is quite serious. This also [adds] quarantine measures that were introduced in connection with COVID-19. In our country, many processes are now taking place under the auspices of these measures, and they are really hitting the economy, the standard of living and the attitudes that the population had. Here, for example, is an interesting nuance: the children of the Karakalpak elite, as a rule, studied in Russia, and not in Uzbekistan. A fairly large group is studying in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and it is clear that with quarantine measures this situation is changing, and this also puts pressure. The question is how the population itself perceives it – I don’t know this, it’s just my reconstruction.”
In his opinion, "zeroing the presidency of Mirziyoyev", which, among other things, could have sparked protests, is not a critical issue for the population. The President of Uzbekistan agreed to make concessions on the issue of amendments to the constitution due to the fact that he himself is not responsible for them - it was the parliament that legally proposed these amendments, the political scientist notes:
“If we procedurally look at the issue with these amendments, then it looks very interesting and unusual for Uzbekistan, although many do not pay attention to this. By law, only the Uzbek parliament can amend the constitution. In common practice, it is clear that the presidential administration has always interfered in this, and the parliament of Uzbekistan is largely dependent on the presidential administration.
This influence of the presidential administration in the open field was not visible at all. It was the Parliament of Uzbekistan that created the commission on amendments, and not a single representative of the presidential administration was included in this commission; the list is open, and you can see it: a few people from the government, and the rest are parliamentarians from the senate or the legislative chamber, there are representatives of the regions of Uzbekistan. Moreover, the chairman of the parliament of Uzbekistan is also included in this commission at the level of deputy chairman, this commission is absolutely parliamentary.
In addition, they collected and developed a list of amendments, which have now been submitted for public discussion and approved by the Uzbek Parliament. De facto, he did not pass any examination in the presidential administration. The list of amendments is a purely legal bomb. I can assume that there was some interference by the presidential administration, but this is unprovable. In the legal field, these amendments were proposed by the parliament. These amendments have not yet been put to a vote anywhere, they have only been submitted for discussion, and therefore it is simply impossible to say that Uzbekistan, or Tashkent, or Mirziyoyev have backed down, because this is not Mirziyoyev’s initiative. If you watch his speech in Nukus, when he met with parliamentarians and the public, he said: “Guys, you brought it in. Why did you do it?“
This is not his initiative, in any case, legally, he is not behind this initiative. There is no problem for him to say: “Let's remove these amendments”, which is what he said. Mirziyoyev's only initiative is to adopt these amendments not by a parliamentary decision, but by a referendum decision. The situation in the legal field is very convenient for Mirziyoyev, because he is not responsible for these amendments.”
Earlier, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed to abandon the amendments to the constitution, which deprived the country's largest province of Karakalpakstan of sovereignty and ruled out the possibility of its secession from the country. On July 3, a video appeared online showing Mirziyoyev chastising officials from Karakalpakstan who, he said, did not tell him about the dissatisfaction of the residents of the province. “Constitutional reform is carried out to improve people's lives. If the people of Karakalpakstan are unhappy, not a single article will ever change,” he said. Mirziyoyev said this after protests broke out in the republic. The main rally was held in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, during the protests there were detained 516 people, 18 people were killed , 243 were injured.
Ruslan Myatiev, editor-in-chief of TurkmenNews, told The Insider that the security forces who worked on the protests were not locals: according to him, most of the locals were removed from the case so that they would not shoot “at their brother.” Myatiev believes that Mirziyoyev "positions himself as a modern leader, trying to let foreign investment into Uzbekistan." If he decided to send tanks into Karakalpakstan, it would be the end of both investment and foreign travel, he added.
Karakalpakstan is a sovereign republic located in the west of Uzbekistan. About two million people live in it, among which there are Karakalpaks, Uzbeks and Kazakhs. Two official languages are recognized in the republic: Karakalpak and Uzbek. In 1936, the Kara-Kalpak Autonomous Region became part of the Uzbek SSR. In 1990, the Supreme Council of the Karakalpak ASSR adopted a declaration on state sovereignty, and in 1993, the country's authorities signed an interstate agreement on the entry of Karakalpakstan into Uzbekistan. This treaty enshrined the right of the republic to secede from the country.