Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev Saturday announced that he would not proceed with a planned constitutional reform to remove the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan‘s right to secede from Uzbekistan via referendum.
Mirziyoyev made an emergency trip to Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, on Saturday following the start of protests on Friday. A month-long state of emergency in the region was also imposed on Saturday.
On the protests, the region’s government stated:
Despite the policy of openness and free expression of will pursued by the Republic of Uzbekistan, on July 1, 2022 in Nukus, a criminal group of persons organized illegal actions expressed in an attempt to seize the state administration bodies of the Republic of Karakalpakstan.
The proposed change caused outrage among ethnic Karakalpaks, who constitute the majority of Karakalpakstan’s population. Karakalpaks in neighboring Kazakhstan held a round-table discussion on the proposed change. One speaker, Rustem Matekov, stated that the day of the referendum on the new version of the constitution would be “the day of the funeral of the people of the Republic of Karakalpakstan.”
Mirziyoyev’s office said following the reversal:
[T]he head of our state, taking into account the unique ethnic and cultural characteristics, national traditions and values, special legal status of Karakalpakstan, emphasized the need to leave the norms of the legal status of the Republic of Karakalpakstan unchanged in the project. That is, Articles 70, 71, 72, 74, 75 of the Constitution will remain unchanged.
Other proposed constitutional reforms include reinforcing civil rights and extending the presidential term from five to seven years, which would allow Mirziyoyev to run again despite already having served two consecutive terms.