In a departure from the distant leadership style of the late Islam Karimov, the interim president of Uzbekistan has instituted an online suggestions and complaint box.
For now the website, pm.gov.uz, is still in test regime and under the PM domain, not least since Shavkat Mirziyoyev still occupies the post of head of government ahead of the December 4 presidential elections.
The website is available in Uzbek and Russian.
“Do you have unsolved problems, applications, complaints or suggestions? Send them to the prime minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan,” the website burbles enthusiastically.
Private citizens or legally registered companies can address Mirziyoyev through the provided online form, which requires a raft of identifying data, or they can call directly at the toll-free number 1000.
The direct line connects callers to regional advisers for Mirziyoyev’s Liberal-Democratic Party of Uzbekistan (UzLiDeP), which advanced his nomination for the presidency.
The appearance of the website and hotline were advertised on the evening news on state television on September 24.
News website Gazeta.uz notes that responsibility for considering all public appeals through these forms of communications are being placed on the heads of ministries, government departments and local authorities.
The initiative seems to have been greeted with guarded optimism.
One comment under the Gazeta.uz article set the tone well. The reader, who signed off as FSI Tajok, wrote: “Shavkat aka, we believe in you! It seems to me that the most topical issue of the day is the lack of gas and electricity — people are suffering round the clocks in the fall and winter. There are hard-up families, families with no husbands that cannot afford alternative forms of power. I believe in you, I will vote only for you and I am certain that when you are in power, all problems will be solved.”
On the face of it, this initiative looks like an easy pre-electoral gambit that will convey the impression of a new way of doing things — although an excess of complaining could sour tempers at the top. But how long will it last?
“We have had this kind of thing with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin. For sure, direct contact between citizens and their leader is a kind of manifestation of democracy,” journalist Marfua Tohtahajayeva told EurasiaNet.org. “But the main question is: will this form of communication with the people be kept after the presidential elections?”
Don’t count on it.