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Power-sharing Accords Become Presidential Campaign Issues

Moscow, May 28 (RFE/RL) -- Power-sharing agreements between the central government and regional components of the Russian Federation have recently emerged as important elements in the presidential campaign. The agreements are part and parcel of President Boris Yeltsin's policy of administrative decentralization. Yeltsin has said on many occasions that he wants to give the regions as much power as they can deal with. This policy has gained considerable support among regional leaders.

Now, Yeltin�s campaign managers are trying to use the issue to gain popular support for the president's campaign. They also say that a communist victory will undermine the agreements. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has recently been quoted by the Russian media as saying that if the communist candidate wins the presidential election, manifestations of federalism exemplified by the power-sharing accords might be reversed. Last week Tatarstan�s parliamentary leader Vasily Likhachev publicly called for Yeltsin�s re-election after the Communist Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov' had suggested that the power-sharing agreements have a temporary character and that Tatarstan�s privileges will be stopped in the future.

Likhachev, who is also deputy speaker of Russia�s Federation Council (the upper house of parliament whose members are representatives of Russia�s regions) told REF/RL that in the Tatar leadership�s view Yeltsin is the only presidential candidate capable of guaranteeing the development of a federalist, multi-national and democratic Russia. Moscow so far has signed power-sharing agreements with 15 of its 89 regions. They have both political and economic importance for the regions.

Until last year Moscow was signing these accords with ethnic republics, such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkarya, North Ossetia, Sakha-Yakutia, Buryatia and Udmurtia. But during the current year Moscow has also signed power-sharing agreements with several administrative regions (oblasts) and districts (krays). They include Khabarovsk, Sverdlovsk, Kaliningrad, Orenburg and Krasnodar. Tatarstan is one of the republics which have benefited from the agreement on power sharing with the federal government. Having signed it in 1994, the republic has gained ownership rights over its large oil reserves. It controls its industrial companies, retains the bulk of its tax revenues, and has the right to conduct foreign economic policy.

The power sharing scheme has had support of many regional governors. Most of them, particularly from smaller regions would like to sign those agreements. But several prominent governors have recently charged that the practice fosters inequelity among regions. For example, Boris Nemtsov, reformist governor of Nizhny Novgorod, told RFE/RL three days ago that some form of unification of the agreements is necessary to avoid a situation where some regions have privileges and others do not.

And Nemtsov said that a recently issued presidential decree on the matter is expected Ito bring clarity in these relations, particularly on budgetary issues.