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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 15, 2003


15 December 2003
DAILY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Shaimiev Claims Federal Officials Violate Russian Constitution
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 12 December, Russian Constitution Day, that the priority of human rights and law declared in the 1993 constitution remained its greatest virtue, Interfax reported the same day. Shaimiev also described the constitutional provisions on Russia's federal structure as the "crucial" part of the document, as there is "no other alternative for Russia, other than federalization."

He admitted that the recent campaigns to conform regional legislation with federal laws was justified, because "the legal space must be common. At the same time it is absolutely unacceptable that some of the laws adopted at the [federal] level violate the Russian Constitution." As an example, Shaimiev said that by amending the law on national languages, the "State Duma prohibited the use of Latin-based Tatar script, thus committing a flagrant violation of [Russia's] constitution, the European framework Convention on Ethnic Minorities, and other international documents ratified by our country."

Shaimiev said Tatarstan's decision to replace the Cyrillic-based alphabet with a Latin-based one was, according to the Russian Constitution, within the exclusive jurisdiction of a territorial entity. Therefore, he said that federal courts rule not only according to specific laws, but also on the constitution, "which is superior to any other law and has direct force." Shaimiev added that he shared Russian President Vladimir Putin's view that Russia's constitution "does not need revision."

Mukhametshin Warns Of Declining Effect Of 'Administrative Resources'
During the 13 December conference of Unified Russia's branch in Tatarstan, Political Council Secretary Farid Mukhametshin, who is chairman of the republic's State Council, said, "With every Duma election campaign the role of so-called administrative resources decreases" along with the development of democratic traditions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 December. Mukhametshin warned party members that in the future they will have less opportunity to enjoy being part of the "party of power."

Meanwhile, in the 7 December State Duma elections in Tatarstan, all five Unified Russia candidates managed to win seats in the lower house of Russia's parliament from five single-mandate districts in the republic.

Latin Tatar Script Adjusted For Use On The Web
An initiative group involving computer experts and Tatar linguistic researchers developed a new Latin-based script, "Inalif," for using Tatar in web-based communication, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 12 December. Inalif is seen a replacement for the official Latin Tatar script adopted in 1999, which contains a number of letters not shared by most Internet fonts and keyboards. The new script relies exclusively on standard Latin symbols for expressing the Tatar letters and aims at expanding the use of Tatar on the web. The current version of Inalif may be found at the official web portal of Tatarstan, http://www.tatar.ru/ and will soon be published at http://www.tatinfo.ru.

Tatar President Sends Condolences On Aliyev's Death
On 13 December President Shaimiev sent a telegram to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, expressing deep condolences on the death of the latter's father and the first president of that republic Heidar Aliyev, the Tatar presidential press service reported the same day. Shaimiev's message said that it is hard to overestimate Heidar Aliyev's role in the political life of the CIS, "where he as a wise politician knew how to find constructive solutions in the most complicated situations."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

DAILY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Election Commission Announces Final Election Results
The Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) confirmed on 12 December the official results of the Bashkir presidential election, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. According to the USK, 2.2 million residents, or 75.91 percent of the republic's voters, took part in the elections. Incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov collected 42.59 percent of the vote, followed by former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko with 25.38 percent. Relif Safin, the Federation Council member from Altai Republic, came in third place with 23.03 percent. The USK has said the second round of the elections will be held on 21 December. The elections were declared invalid in six of the republic's 3,488 polling districts, USK head Baryi Kinjegulov told reporters on 12 December. Kinjegulov said in those districts there were attempts to bribe voters and violations by local election commissions. He also said the annulment of the results in those districts did not affect the final result. Kinjegulov added that there were 199 complaints of violations of electoral law received by the USK, but the commission's working group found no reason to annul the election results.

Safin's Supporters Go On Hunger Strike...
More than 10 people in Ufa have begun a hunger strike to protest against the results of the Bashkir presidential elections on 7 December, which they believe were falsified, Interfax and RosBalt reported on 14 December. The head of Safin's electoral staff, Rim Gabdullin, told the news agency that the hunger strikers have been refusing meals for two days, Gabdullin added. Similar actions will take place in the Sibai and Oktyabrskii municipalities, Gabdullin said. According to RosBalt, seven people have joined the hunger strike in Sibai. The agency quoted Gabdullin as saying that the strike began independently and Safin's staff are not involved, apart from letting the strikers use the electoral staff's premises. He added, however, that, "there are supporters of Relif Safin among the strikers."

...And Appeal To Putin
Supporters of Relif Safin held a meeting on the Ufa Soviet Square on 12 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Police prevented many demonstrators from taking part. At the meeting, an appeal signed by 480,000 people to Russian President Vladimir Putin was distributed. The petition cited alleged electoral violations in Bashkortostan and called on Putin to intervene. The petitioners warned that if Putin shows no reaction, they will begin a campaign of civil disobedience. Participants in the meeting also criticized the heads of Bashkir state television, who they described as a "nest of censorship." On 7 December, Safin was deprived of free airtime on local state television.

Federal Authorities Emphasize Support For Rakhimov
Visiting Ufa on 12 December, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko and presidential Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov met with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov to discuss the "further development of the republic," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Kirienko told reporters that "elections come and go, but the most important thing is not to let their emotionality harm the normal development of the region." Kirienko said they had discussed with Rakhimov the "preservation of normal conditions for interethnic peace and concord...for all cultures," the issue that caused the most concern in the district. Kirienko expressed his concern about some candidates playing the "nationalist card" in their campaign. Safin, an ethnic Tatar, received the majority of votes in raions predominantly populated by Tatars, while Veremeenko led the way in cities where Russians predominate.

In particular, Kirienko said the issue of the Tatar language's status should be given special attention and that doubling the gross domestic product, developing the oil production and processing sector, and cleaning up after the spring floods were also on the agenda. "Kommersant-Daily" commented on 15 December that the visit by Kirienko and Surkov is another sign that the Kremlin supports Rakhimov. Immediately after the first round of elections, Rakhimov was received by President Putin; several days later a high-ranking figure in the presidential administration, Andrei Popov, visited Ufa.

New Attacks On Bashkir Independent Media
Bashkortostan's New Television Channel, which is the only independent TV company in Ufa, received an order from the Media Ministry on halting the channel's license and stopping its broadcasts, bashnews.ru, regions.ru, and other Russian news agencies reported. Violations during the campaigning for the Bashkir presidential elections were named among the reasons for the move. After 7 December, when the first round of the Bashkir presidential elections was held, all independent Ufa radio stations stopped broadcasting, while the federal state television channels replaced their critical coverage of the Bashkir authorities with open support for them, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 December. "Novaya gazeta" speculated on 15 December that "a feudal counterrevolution occurred in Ufa on 11 December" that was supported by the Kremlin. The paper cited an unidentified editor in chief of a Bashkir opposition newspaper as saying that Bashkortostan's opposition papers were shut down on the night of the 11 December and their print runs were destroyed. During the presidential race, several independent radio stations were pulled off the air and opposition websites, like bashnews.ru, were blocked.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
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