With a pinch of of whataboutism, President Islam Karimov says Uzbekistan is democratizing in its own way, and no one should rush it.
Speaking on state television on December 7 to mark the 20th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s constitution, Karimov said his country is rapidly developing into “a modern sovereign country with democratic, social, political and civil institutions that view human rights and freedoms as real values.”
Most EurasiaNet readers will scoff at the suggestion that one of the world’s longest-ruling autocrats, who throws critics into prison while his family seems to seize anything not nailed down, has much belief in values like the rule of law or protection of private property.
Nonetheless, the speech, though nothing unusual for Karimov, will give our readers a taste of the verbose spin the 74-year-old employs. Much of it sounds as dated as he is – which may help explain why he views things like the Internet and Western video games as such a threat.
Karimov – who has run Uzbekistan for 23 years – paints himself as a reformer. Democratization “is a long and continuous process that is not limited to a certain period of time, and we are certainly aware of that,” he said of the “Uzbek model” of development.
Transcript and translation provided by BBC Monitoring.
[We are] implementing a blueprint for evolutionary development, making sure that the economy is free of ideology, introducing democratic reforms gradually, ensuring the supremacy of law, recognizing the state's role as the chief reformer and further increasing its influence during the transitional period, and taking into account our country's unique features, conducting a strong social policy.
It should be noted that precisely defining the powers and tasks of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power, balancing these branches through a system of checks and balances and strengthening political parties' roles are the basis for all kinds of democratic systems. And the formation of a political system on these principles with the effect of thoroughly thought-out modern democratic reforms can be seen here.
This means completely abandoning the Soviet-era centralized plan-distribution system, adopting modern market economy[ic] principles and strengthening the inviolability of private property as the most important priority area of Uzbekistan's strategic development. This ensures the rapid development of small business and private entrepreneurship with the formation of the country's middle class or class of proprietors, which is truly society's most important and decisive sector today and which ensures social and political stability and reform and modernization in the country.
And many more crucial factors can be cited here as examples, such as those ensuring Uzbekistan's rapid development today and turning it into a modern sovereign country with democratic, social, political and civil institutions that view human rights and freedoms as real values.
At the same time, we all understand very well that democratization and liberalization mean forming a completely new state in principle. It is not a task that can be carried out in one or two years but is a long and continuous process that is not limited to a certain period of time, and we are certainly aware of that.
We hear in some places some people brag `We have built democracy and made a successful transition to a market economy.' However, I think, that is a superficial view, and that there is no ultimate democracy. If we examine those that proclaimed themselves the best democracies, even they have shortcomings. The most important thing is to further develop democracy.