Churov has vowed to be impartial during upcoming elections (ITAR-TASS)
March 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's Central Election Commission has chosen Vladimir Churov, a former colleague of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as its new chairman ahead of key elections.
Churov was elected today in a vote by the 15 members of the election commission. Thirteen members voted for him, two against.
Churov's nomination comes ahead of key parliamentary elections in December 2007 and a presidential election in 2008.
'Work To Do'
Speaking today at a commission meeting in Moscow, Churov pledged the body will remain impartial throughout the polls.
"We will not be equally distant from political parties, but equally close to all parties as participants in democratic elections." -- Churov
"We will not be equally distant from political parties, but equally close to all parties as participants in democratic elections and as an integral part in the development of the state," Churov said. "I thank once again all of my colleagues for their trust. We are going to have a lot of work to do."
His appointment follows Putin's decision this month not to renominate the commission's former chairman, Aleksandr Veshnyakov. Churov was the only candidate put forward for the vacant job.
Vladislav Surkov, deputy head of the presidential administration, today strongly praised Veshnyakov's performance as commission chief.
Why, then, did the Kremlin chose to oust him?
A Larger Campaign?
Churov's nomination is widely seen as a part of a campaign to fill the commission with malleable, loyal officials ahead of the elections.
"Obviously, the issue was to find a person who is not capable of becoming an independent partner of any of the groups in power," said Boris Kagarlitsky, director of the Institute for Globalization Studies. "Veshnyakov, who occupied this post for a very long time and built up contacts and access to all the key figures, could have become too unpredictable and dangerous. Who was chosen to replace is not that important."
The 54-year-old Churov, a former physicist, worked with Putin in the 1990s in the St. Petersburg city administration.
He was elected to parliament in 2003 as a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), but he is no longer a member.