Uzbek leader could seek more terms under proposed constitutional change

FILE PHOTO: Uzbek president Mirziyoyev attends a news conference with his Kazakh counterpart Tokayev in Tashkent

TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Monday proposed holding a referendum on constitutional changes being drafted by parliament that would permit him to seek two more five-year terms in office.

Mirziyoyev told members of the former Soviet republic's constitutional commission that it would be "a real people’s constitution" if approved by a national referendum, his office quoted him as saying.

Mirziyoyev won a second five-year term last year and the current constitution bars him from seeking another one. He came to power in 2016 following the death of Islam Karimov, the Central Asian nation's former Soviet-era leader and first president.

Mirziyoyev has opened up the country to foreign trade and investment, lifted some curbs on religious practices, reined in the powerful security services and overseen the release of some political prisoners.

But Uzbekistan's political system remains highly centralised, no genuine opposition parties have been registered so far and while bloggers and media can now criticise senior officials and raise sensitive issues, they never target the president himself.

Mirziyoyev said the proposed constitutional changes would reflect people’s basic rights, including property rights and land ownership, impose habeas corpus and so-called Miranda rights for potential criminal suspects in custody to be informed of rights to an attorney and against self-incrimination.

He rejected calls for the restoration of the death penalty, suggesting the proposed new constitution highlight that the death penalty is banned forever.

He also suggested the constitution make clear that the results of privatisation would not be reviewed and annulled.

Although there was no mention of the matter by the deputies or the state media on Monday, Sadik Safaev, the first deputy chairman of the Senate, told local media last week that changing the constitution would reset the count on Mirziyoyev's presidential terms.

(Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov, Editing by William Maclean)