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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 18, 2003

18 September 2003
Parliament Adopts Electoral Legislation
Tatarstan's State Council on 17 September passed in their third readings several laws regulating parliamentary elections in the republic, Tatar agencies reported the same day. The law on the election of deputies of Tatarstan's State Council specifies that the republic's next State Council will be a unicameral body comprised of 100 deputies. One half of them will be elected in single-mandate electoral districts, while the other half will represent political parties. To be represented in the parliament, parties must garner more than 7 percent of the vote. The law on the number of Tatar State Council deputies working on a permanent basis prescribes that there will be 20, including the chairman and his deputies, secretary, heads of committees, and other deputies elected by the parliament. The deputies also passed a law on holding parliamentary elections in parallel with the Russian presidential election on 14 March. The parliament rejected an amendment by Deputy Aleksandr Shtanin, the only representative of the opposition on the legislation about the State Council's self-dissolution. The legislators also disagreed with Shtanin's proposal that all factions in the future parliament will have three members among the permanently working deputies. The current legislative body was elected on 19 December 1999 to a five-year term.

President Says Salary Should Not Be Below Living Wage
Speaking at the Tatar State Council plenary session on 17 September, President Mintimer Shaimiev said the salaries of state employees cannot be below the living wage, reported the same day. Shaimiev was commenting on a proposal by Deputy Rawil Latyipov, who called for a 1,000 ruble ($32.5) increase in salaries for district doctors and an 800 ruble raise for nurses. Latyipov addressed the session by reporting on the low salaries in the health-care sector. He said some 35-40 percent of the positions of district doctors are vacant in the republic, which he said could lead in several years to a catastrophic deficiency. Shaimiev said that the salaries of state budget employees will be increased by 33 percent across Russia as of 1 October, adding that 200 to 500 rubles will be added to salaries in Tatarstan. He said the Tatar government will maintain those payments following 1 October. The deputies agreed to discuss the issue during their consideration of the draft 2004 budget at the next plenary session on 17 October.

Daily Reports Details Of Deal On Selling Tatincom Controlling Interest
Svyazinvest branches VolgaTelecom and Uralsvyazinform paid Tatneft $25 million for its 83 percent stake in Tatincom (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 September 2003), "Vedomosti" reported on 17 September, citing an unnamed minor shareholder of VolgaTelecom. Some $15 million of the total sum was paid by VolgaTelecom for 50 percent plus one share. Given that Tatincom, with its 120,000 subscribers, has a $15 million debt, Svyazinvest paid $380 for each one, the daily said. Meanwhile, only representatives of Svyazinvest backed the deal at a meeting of the VolgaTelecom board, while other members abstained, saying the price was too high.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Political Researcher: Safin Will Not Win Bashkir Presidency
Relif Safin's entry into Bashkortostan's December presidential elections could seriously change the balance of political power there, "Vedomosti" wrote on 17 September, citing Aleksei Titov, a political researcher at Moscow's Carnegie Fund. Titov said that Safin, an ethnic Tatar born in Bashkortostan who is a former LUKoil vice president and currently representing Altai Republic in Russia's Federation Council, "may consolidate the republic's Tatar population." Titov cited data from the Russian presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District saying Tatars were the second major ethnic group in Bashkortostan, at 28.4 percent of the population, while Russians made up 39.3 percent and Bashkirs 21.9 percent. He added that Safin "will not become the next Bashkir president, but his popularity among Bashkortostan's Tatars will allow him to negotiate" with incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov and another presidential candidate, former top manager of Mezhprombank and adviser to the chairman of the Unified Russia party's Executive Committee Sergei Veremeenko, on converting voter support into business projects in Bashkortostan.

Bashkir Parliament Schedules Presidential Vote For 7 December
Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 17 September voted to move the date of presidential election in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 and 16 September 2003) to that of the Russian State Duma elections on 7 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In March, the Bashkir parliament extended Rakhimov's term in office by postponing the June election, which raised speculation about the possibility of having the presidential election either together with the Duma vote or with the March 2004 federal presidential elections.

Opposition Website Claims UralSib Bank Is Heading For The Sell-Off
The website run by supporters of Bashkir presidential candidate Veremeenko claimed on 17 September that that Bashkortostan's UralSib bank of is implementing "a designedly loss-making investment policy by purchasing dozens of new affiliates in all regions of Russia. The bank is heading for a sell-off, following the loss of [President Murtaza] Rakhimov's clan in the coming presidential elections."

The website also claimed that UralSib recently has been practicing "a mass promotion attack for attracting private long-term deposits with unjustified high interest rates." The bank is said to have attracted in this way some 10.2 billion rubles ($333.3 million) in private investments, of which some 80 percent were not reinvested, but used for "running expenses," according to the website.

Earlier this year, the Russian Interior Ministry launched a probe into the alleged violations committed during the privatization of the formerly state-owned UralSib, but the investigation was halted on the grounds of bank president Azat Qormanaev's immunity as a republican parliamentary deputy (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 September 2003).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi