Although they should be representatives of the people, members of parliament in Uzbekistan are all but invisible and anonymous to most of the public.
Speaking at a government meeting last week, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev suggested a way to end that by ordering all deputies of the lower and upper house to create social media accounts.
The evening news bulletin on July 13 cited the president as saying that social media accounts would give MPs and Senators a direct outlet to the public and help them to more rapidly address problems as they arose.
“Many countries in the world have already adopted this system,” he said.
This is certainly true, although it would fair to point out that those same MPs will often open accounts online and then never update or use them. To ensure the Uzbek deputies are shepherded into compliance, IT Development and Communications Minister Sherzod Shermatov has been tasked with implementing this initiative.
The points on social media were part of Mirziyoyev’s broader criticisms on the state of political parties in Uzbekistan. The parties are failing to live up to their election promises and have proven unable to advance their own proposals in parliament, he said.
Such language must be distressing for MPs who were only ever elected to create the surface impression of a multiparty system. While the Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party, or UzLiDeP, which traditionally nominated the late Islam Karimov as presidential candidate, served as the leader of the pack, other like the Justice Social Democratic Party, National Revival Democratic Party and the People’s Democratic Party were tailor-made to nominally represent specific demographic groups.
Mirziyoyev grumbled that from 2015 to 2017, parliament had adopted 55 pieces of legislation and that not one of them was proposed by MPs.
“Not a single one! Is this fact not a clear judgment on the activity of political parties?” he was cited as saying by Podbrobno.uz.
Ironically enough, one of the most prominent pieces of legislative action taken up by parliament in recent years has involved placing restrictions of access to the internet, and social media in particular. In 2014, parliament approved legislation limiting the activities of bloggers. One provision required bloggers to verify the reliability of any information they posted or face having their website blocked.
MPs are now, in word at least, being asked to provide information instead of just blocking access to it.