25 September 2003, Volume 3, Number 38
NOTE TO READERS:
RUSSIA VOTES -- Get the latest analysis, breaking news, and background info on candidates and parties in RFE/RL's Russian Elections 2003-04 website: http://www.rferl.org/specials/russianelection
STATE DUMA ELECTION CAMPAIGN
UNIFIED RUSSIA TAPS POLITICAL AND BUSINESS ELITE.Living up to its reputation as Russia's main "party of power," Unified Russia will field a party list packed with government officials, regional leaders, and representatives of large business groups. Delegates to the party's congress in Moscow on 20 September approved a list topped by four candidates who are almost certain not to take up seats in the State Duma after the 7 December election: Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev. Governors or presidents of Russian regions top 20 out of Unified Russia's 31 regional party lists, and deputy federal ministers top another two regional lists for the party, "Vedomosti" reported on 23 September.
Executives from prominent corporations or financial-industrial groups gained many spots on the Unified Russia list as well, and more important, those spots are high enough to give the candidates a strong chance of winning Duma seats if they choose to serve in the parliament. The business representatives running on the Unified Russia ticket include a co-owner of Yukos, two representatives from Interros, two from LUKoil, and two from the Tyumen Oil Company, "Nezavisismaya gazeta" and "Vedomosti" reported on 23 September.
"Vedomosti" quoted Unity Duma faction leader Vladimir Pekhtin as saying that "the presence of representatives of business on the [party] list is not only normal but essential." Speaking to the same newspaper, Aleksei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technology divided Unified Russia's business candidates into two categories. Some are well-known regional figures who can attract votes, such as the general director of the Magnitogorsk metal works. Others simply represent companies that sponsor Unified Russia. Makarkin estimated that all of the party's primary donors received one or two high-ranking spots on the party list.
President Vladimir Putin dominated the news coverage of the Unified Russia congress, particularly on television, by showing up unexpectedly to lend his support. Putin told delegates that he voted for "your party" (at the time known as Unity) four years ago and had no regrets about having done so. Since Unified Russia is explicitly a pro-presidential party and has no clear ideology other than supporting the current authorities, Putin's comments were in no way surprising. But Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov sent inquiries to the Central Election Commission (TsIK) and the Prosecutor-General's Office, characterizing Putin's words as unlawful campaign "agitation" by a Category A government official. Four years ago Zyuganov and other opposition politicians expressed similar outrage when then-Prime Minister Putin revealed his plans to vote for Unity (see "RFE/RL Russian Election Report," 3 December 1999).
Efforts to penalize senior officials for stating the obvious have never gained traction during previous elections and will not this year. On the contrary, TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov promptly defended Putin's right to endorse a party (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 and 23 September 2003). But as long as Russia's election law includes broadly worded restrictions on who can "agitate" for parties and candidates, such controversies are likely to be a recurring feature of parliamentary campaigns. (Laura Belin)
RIVALRY AMONG PARTIES OF POWER HEATS UP.Valerii Bogomolov, secretary of the Unified Russia General Council, on 17 September accused Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov of using his official position to promote his Party of Life, Russian media reported. While Mironov was on a visit to Chita Oblast, Bogomolov complained to journalists in Moscow that "for the last five or six months, the Federation Council has been turning into a branch of the Party of Life." At first glance, the electoral bloc of Mironov's party and Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev's Party of Russia's Rebirth appears to pose little threat to front-runner Unified Russia. However, the Mironov/Seleznev bloc could deprive Unified Russia of a first-place showing on the party-list ballot if it attracts even a small percentage of voters inclined to back a "party of power." Unified Russia's previous incarnation, Unity, was the leading beneficiary of so-called "administrative resources" during the 1999 Duma campaign.
Although Mironov has not directly responded to Bogomolov, on 22 September he denied engaging in party-building within the Federation Council, "Kommersant" reported the next day. And in an indirect challenge to Unified Russia, Mironov criticized efforts to remove Leonid Kravchenko as editor in chief of the official parliamentary newspaper "Parlamentskaya gazeta." Citing an audit of that newspaper's finances, the Duma's Rules Committee recommended on 18 September that Kravchenko be fired (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2003). Kravchenko has accused "the comrades in Unified Russia" of trying to sack him in order to take control of the media during the upcoming election campaign. "Kommersant" on 23 September quoted Mironov as saying he sees no reason to raise the matter of Kravchenko's dismissal and calling such a move electoral populism. LB
PEOPLE'S PARTY FAVORS SPREADING THE GOVERNMENT AROUND.People's Party leader Gennadii Raikov has advocated locating some of Russia's key governmental institutions in cities across the country, "Gazeta" reported on 22 September. Under his scheme, the presidential administration and embassies of foreign governments would remain in Moscow. The government would be based in Yekaterinburg, the State Duma in Nizhnii Novgorod, the Federation Council in Novosibirsk, the Constitutional Court in Vladivostok, the Supreme Court in Omsk, the Central Bank in Krasnoyarsk, and the Arbitration Court in Irkutsk. St. Petersburg would become Russia's cultural capital. People's Party co-chairman Valerii Galchenko has authored a package of draft laws outlining the moves. He told "Gazeta" that distributing the "central organs of state power" across the country would prevent Russia's territorial disintegration, as well as a "social explosion." By way of example, Galchenko argued that moving the Constitutional Court to Vladivostok would prevent the "Chinaization" [kitaizatsiya] of that Far Eastern city. The proposal suggests that the People's Party will pursue a campaign strategy that plays on regional resentment of Moscow-dominated politics. LB
ARE YABLOKO AND SPS FRIENDS OR FOES?The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Grigorii Yavlinskii's Yabloko party have coordinated their efforts in six out of the seven single-mandate districts about which they were negotiating, "Gazeta" reported on 19 September. The newspaper quoted SPS campaign manager Alfred Kokh as saying that Yabloko agreed to withdraw its candidates in two St. Petersburg districts and one Moscow district, improving the chances of SPS co-chairwoman Irina Khakamada, Duma Economic Policy Committee Chairman Grigorii Tomchin, and SPS faction deputy chairman Boris Nadezhdin. In return, the SPS agreed to withdraw its candidates in two Moscow and one St. Petersburg districts, protecting Yabloko Duma deputy Sergei Mitrokhin and two other Yabloko candidates. However, Kokh noted that the parties could not reach consensus on one Moscow district, where Yabloko Duma deputy Aleksei Arbatov will compete against Aleksei Kara-Murza, a member of the SPS political council. Relations between Yabloko and the SPS have been strained in recent weeks. Mitrokhin published a commentary in the 21 August edition of "Novaya gazeta" accusing the SPS of orchestrating a campaign to discredit Yabloko. The leader of the so-called Yabloko Without Yavlinskii movement is suing Mitrokhin for alleging that the movement is a provocation instigated by SPS strategist Kokh (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September 2003 and 18 September 2003). LB
GLAZEV'S COALITION SUFFERS DEFECTIONS.Two small parties have left the Motherland bloc, also known as the coalition of national-patriotic forces headed by Sergei Glazev and Dmitrii Rogozin, "Vremya novostei" and "Novye izvestiya" reported on 23 September. Aleksandr Dugin, described by "Novye izvestiya" as an ideologist of Glazev's bloc, is taking his Eurasia party out of the alliance because, according to him, Motherland "rejected the left orientation it declared in the beginning" and emphasized "crude nationalism" instead. An unnamed source close to Glazev told "Novye izvestiya" that Dugin quit because he was not nominated for Motherland's party list or a single-mandate district, but Dugin denied that was his motivation.
The second party to announce, on 22 September, its departure from Motherland was the Union of People for Education and Science (SLON), founded by former Yabloko member Vyacheslav Igrunov. Delegates to the SLON party congress voted in favor of campaigning for the Duma independently, REN-TV reported. "Vremya novostei" quoted Igrunov as saying, "We counted on building a left-center, European-type bloc...but [Motherland] is a right-nationalist coalition, not a left-center bloc."
Like the Communist Party (KPRF), on whose list he ran for the Duma in 1999, Glazev is trying to appeal to both left-leaning and nationalist voters. Speaking to journalists on 16 September, he characterized the KPRF as an ally of his bloc and said Motherland and KPRF candidates will not compete against each other in the majority of single-mandate districts, Radio Rossii reported. But Rogozin, the number two candidate for Motherland, is better known for nationalist views, and the bloc also includes well-known nationalists such as Party of National Rebirth leader Sergei Baburin. "Novye izvestiya" reported that eight people on the Motherland party list were on the party list of Spas (Savior) during the 1999 Duma campaign. That bloc's leader, Aleksandr Barkashov, also headed the Russian National Unity party, widely considered a fascist group. The Central Election Commission revoked the registration of Savior after a court nullified the Justice Ministry's registration of Savior (see "RFE/RL Russian Election Report," 12 November 1999 and 26 November 1999). LB
ELECTION COMMISSION GIVES LDPR A BREAK.The Central Election Commission (TsIK) has registered the party list of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), even though the party did not strictly conform to the requirements of Russia's election law, "Gazeta" reported on 22 September. Russian law requires that a party list be confirmed by a party congress, but the LDPR list submitted to the TsIK was different from the one approved by the LDPR's 8 September congress. Colonel Pavel Chernov of the Federal Security Service reserves had been among the LDPR's top three candidates, but he was dropped from the list after being unable to assemble all the papers required by the TsIK, Zhirinovskii explained. Zhirinovskii's son Igor Lebedev, whom the party congress had approved as the number four candidate, moved up to the number three slot on the list submitted to the TsIK.
In approving the LDPR's list this year, the TsIK avoided a repeat of the 1999 controversy surrounding the TsIK's refusal to register the LDPR for the ballot. Following a series of court appeals that went all the way to the Supreme Court and generated massive free publicity for Zhirinovskii, the LDPR leader managed to register for the Duma ballot as head of the Zhirinovskii Bloc. LB
GORBACHEV'S PARTY TO FOCUS ON SINGLE-MANDATE DISTRICTS.The Social-Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR) will not appear on the party-list ballot this December but will put forward candidates in 34 of Russia's 225 single-mandate districts, following a vote at a 19 September party congress. Party leader and former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev advocated nominating a party list as well as candidates in the single-mandate districts, but party chairman and Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov argued that the SDPR should not exhaust its resources on the party-list campaign. The delegates voted 319-271 in favor of Titov's position, "Kommersant" reported on 20 September.
Choosing not to participate in the party-list vote probably spared the SDPR some embarrassment. Numerous parties describing themselves as center-left or social-democratic have tried and failed to clear the 5 percent threshold in previous Duma elections. During the 1999 campaign, Gorbachev appeared in free-air-time videos on behalf of one such electoral bloc called Social-Democrats (see "RFE/RL Russian Election Report," 3 December 1999). However, that bloc finished dead last among the 26 groups on the ballot with 0.08 percent of the vote. This year the social-democratic niche is likely to be crowded again; "Rossiiskaya gazeta" estimated on 23 September that 17 of the political parties that are eligible to campaign for the Duma can be considered center-left.
Why the SDPR did not join forces with one of those other parties is not entirely clear. According to "Kommersant" on 20 September, party leaders recently negotiated with other politicians about forming an alliance. The leading contender was said to have been Glazev's Motherland bloc. That alliance became untenable after Motherland selected Valentin Varennikov, one of the August 1991 coup plotters against Gorbachev, as its number three candidate.
As for the single-mandate district races, Titov announced that the SDPR will try to negotiate cooperation agreements with other parties, including Unified Russia, Yabloko, and the Party of Life, "Vremya novostei" reported on 22 September. The SDPR may be hoping for the tacit support of the Kremlin. Speaking to delegates at the party congress, Gorbachev praised President Putin for "turning politics toward the interests of a majority" after inheriting "chaos" and a "disaster" from the Boris Yeltsin presidency, Channel 3 television reported on 19 September. In his address to the congress, Titov also mentioned the SDPR's support for Putin, whom he called "the core of our society," TV-Center reported. In addition, Titov was formally invited to the recent Unified Russia congress. LB
PENSIONERS' PARTY JOINS 'SOCIAL JUSTICE' BLOC.Undeterred by better-known rivals appealing to the left-leaning electorate, the Pensioners' Party and the Party of Social Justice formed their own electoral bloc at a 16 September congress in Moscow, Radio Rossii and Radio Mayak reported. The Pensioners' Party campaigned for the Duma independently in 1999 and received 1.95 percent of the party-list vote following a campaign that played on old-fashioned Communist imagery (see "RFE/RL Russian Election Report," 7 January 2000). This year, the bloc called the Russian Pensioners' Party and Party of Social Justice will target other groups such as doctors, students, and soldiers in addition to pensioners, Party of Social Justice leader Vladimir Kishenin told Radio Mayak. Kishenin, who also chairs the board of directors of the LanRusinvest industrial group, will top the bloc's party list, followed by Galiya Zelechukova, a Belgorod woman with enough children to qualify for the Soviet-era moniker "mother-heroine," and Dmitrii Senyukov, a disabled veteran from Moscow Oblast.
Meanwhile, the Kalininskii District Court in Chelyabinsk on 18 September upheld a lawsuit filed by Pensioners' Party leader Sergei Atroshenko against Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, "Kommersant" reported on 20 September. Speaking to journalists in Chelyabinsk in June, Zyuganov alleged that the Pensioners' Party was in the pocket of "Kremlin gray cardinals" who created the party solely to draw votes away from the Communists. Zyuganov also charged that the leaders of the Pensioners' Party had been trained in the United States. The court ordered Zyuganov to pay 1,000 rubles ($32.8) in damages and gave the Communist leader one month to return to Chelyabinsk and call a press conference to recant his statements about the Pensioners' Party. However, a Communist source told "Kommersant" that Zyuganov does not intend to apologize. LB
FIRST OPENLY GAY CANDIDATE TO RUN FOR THE DUMA.A Nizhnii Novgorod man hopes to become the first openly gay candidate for the State Duma, regions.ru reported on 16 September, citing "Nezavisimaya gazeta." Denis Gogolev and Mikhail Morozov, who made headlines recently by paying a Russian Orthodox priest to marry them (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003), have confirmed that one of them will run for the Duma, although they have not officially announced which partner will run for a seat in a single-mandate district. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" quoted one of the men as saying he hopes to advance the cause of gay rights and promises to be a "friend to women" and a feminist in the parliament. He is counting on the support of female voters. Regions.ru noted that when Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Vadim Bulavinov was a member of the People's Deputy Duma faction, he supported recriminalizing homosexual relations, as did People's Deputy faction leader Gennadii Raikov. LB
DEPUTIES ASK CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO TAKE UP FREE-SPEECH VIOLATIONS.A group of State Duma deputies led by the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) will forward an appeal to the Constitutional Court this week claiming there have been massive violations of freedom of speech since the start of the parliamentary election campaign, Russian media reported on 22 September. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told Interfax on 22 September that 96 deputies representing all Duma factions except the pro-Kremlin Unity-Unified Russia faction have signed the appeal. Nemtsov said that since the campaign's start, de facto "censorship" of the media has been introduced and "the manipulation of public opinion" has begun. SPS Deputy Boris Nadezhdin said he would be happy if the Constitutional Court took up the appeal, which targets the recent amendments to the Election Code restricting what media can cover during a campaign, before next year's presidential election, gazeta.ru reported on 22 September. The website added, however, that there was practically no chance this would happen. Likewise, TsIK Chairman Veshnyakov told Ekho Moskvy the appeal is a "political maneuver" and predicted the Constitutional Court will ignore it. (Jonas Bernstein)
DATE SET FOR ST. PETERSBURG GOVERNOR'S RUNOFF...The St. Petersburg Election Commission officially designated 5 October as the date for a second round of voting to determine the region's next governor, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 September. Presidential Envoy to the Northwest Federal District Valentina Matvienko, who received strong Kremlin backing in the run-up to the first round of voting, will face St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anna Markova in the runoff. According to the first round's official tally, Matvienko received 48.73 of the vote, 1.27 percent short of an outright victory, while Markova garnered 15.84 percent. Some 10.97 percent voted "against all." JB
...WHILE SOME SEE ROUND ONE AS A LOSS FOR MATVIENKO AND THE KREMLINSome observers saw Valentina Matvienko's failure to win the St. Petersburg gubernatorial race in one round of voting as a blow to the candidate and the Kremlin. Sergei Markov of the Institute for Political Research said it was of "fundamental" importance to the federal authorities that Matvienko win in the first round, but added that he is "absolutely certain" she will win the runoff, Interfax reported on 22 September. Newsru.com saw the first-round results as a moral defeat for Matvienko and the Kremlin. The federal authorities, the website argued, did everything they could to give her the upper hand, even providing free travel on commuter trains to ensure that dacha-goers returned to the city to vote. Still, only 28.99 percent of eligible voters turned out. The low turnout represented a "boycott" of the vote by St. Petersburg residents, who wanted to express their disapproval of the Kremlin and President Putin for presenting Matvienko as "the only possible Petersburg governor," newsru.com wrote on 22 September. JB
INCUMBENTS ON A ROLL.Incumbent governors had a good day on 21 September. Tomsk Oblast Governor Viktor Kress gained more than 71 percent of the vote, eclipsing his nearest challenger, the Communist Aleksandr Pomorov, who gained nearly 13 percent. Leningrad Oblast Governor Valerii Serdyukov won a second term with more than 56 percent of the vote, soundly defeating former governor Vadim Gustov, who received 25 percent. Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel won a third term in a runoff election, winning nearly 56 percent of the vote compared to just under 30 percent for regional legislator Anton Bakov. The results follows victories earlier this month by incumbent governors in Omsk and Novgorod Oblasts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003).
The winning trend for incumbents is likely to continue. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov announced on 23 September that he is running for re-election, Russian media reported. Although as many as 10 candidates may challenge Luzhkov in the 7 December election, he is likely to win easily in the first round, having been elected with large majorities in 1996 and 1999. Similarly, Moscow Oblast Governor Boris Gromov will likely cruise to re-election on 7 December. "The Moscow Times" reported on 19 September that Unified Russia will probably back Gromov, and neither the Communist Party nor Yabloko nor the Union of Rightist Forces are likely to field candidates against him. Gromov narrowly defeated Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev in January 2000, but Seleznev has said he will not run for governor this time around.
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov faces the voters on 7 December as well. In the last election he had only token opposition, but this year he will face former LUKoil executive and Federation Council deputy Ralif Safin, who represents the Altai Republic in the upper house of the parliament. Another possible challenger is Sergei Veremeenko, co-owner of Mezhprombank and adviser to the chairman of Unified Russia's executive committee, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 September. Rakhimov has a tight grip on the media in Bashkortostan and has been able to keep serious rivals off the ballot in past elections, however, so he remains the heavy favorite.
The only regional leader who is in a weak position going into an election campaign is Tver Oblast Governor Vladimir Platov, who faces criminal charges relating to the alleged misuse of government funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 11 September 2003). LB
KOMI-PERMYAK, PERM MERGER VOTE TO COINCIDE WITH DUMA ELECTIONS.Residents of Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug will vote on 7 December, the same day as nationwide elections to the State Duma, on whether to merge the two regions, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Report" and Ekho Moskvy reported on 23 September. The Perm Oblast Legislative Assembly approved the referendum date on 18 September, and the Legislative Assembly of Komi-Permyak followed suit on 23 September. Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug Governor Gennadii Savelev believe that combining the two regions into a Perm Krai would bring economic benefits, and President Putin has expressed support for the idea (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 19 March 2003). LB
DRAFT BUDGET FOR 2004 CLEARS FIRST HURDLE.The State Duma on 19 September passed in the first reading the draft federal budget for 2004, Russian media reported. The 246 deputies voting in favor of the budget included members of the Unity, Fatherland, People's Deputy, and Liberal Democratic Party of Russia factions. The Communist Party, Agro-Industrial Group, Union of Rightist Forces, and Yabloko voted against. The draft budget estimates revenues of 2.743 trillion rubles ($86.64 billion), expenditures of 2.650 trillion rubles, gross domestic product of 15.3 trillion rubles and an annual inflation rate of 8 to 10 percent, "Vedomosti" reported on 22 September. The main "innovation" of the 2004 budget, according to "Vedomosti," is a stabilization fund that would include the projected budget surplus, plus part of the additional revenues to be collected if the price of oil exceeds $20 a barrel. On 19 September the Duma approved in the first reading a law on creating that stabilization fund.
Duma deputies are likely to make numerous changes to the draft budget before the lower house of the parliament considers the budget in its second reading on 15 October. In particular, Duma Budget Committee Chairman Aleksandr Zhukov (Russian Regions) has said deputies will significantly revise planned spending on assistance to the regions and supporting science and industry. Yabloko, the SPS and People's Deputy have demanded that wages for budget-funded workers be raised in line with inflation.
Meanwhile, Yabloko on 17 September continued its tradition of proposing an alternative to the government's budget. During Boris Yeltsin's presidency, Yabloko members sharply criticized successive governments for basing the budget figures on too-optimistic revenue projections and subsequently using revenue shortfalls as an excuse not to spend money on some programs approved in the budget. But now Yabloko accuses the government of purposely underestimating revenues by some 10 percent, or more than $7 billion (for instance, by calculating revenues based on an artificially low world market price for oil), "The Moscow Times" reported on 18 September. By creating a huge budget surplus on paper, that strategy could allow the government to spend money on the war in Chechnya or more bureaucracy without parliamentary oversight. Among other things, Yabloko's alternative budget would spend more on subsidies for the poor and disadvantaged and would divide tax revenues equally between the federal and regional governments. LB
DUMA VOTES TO INSURE MOST BANK DEPOSITS...By a lopsided vote of 389-2, the State Duma on 17 September approved in its first reading a draft law that would provide government guarantees for most private bank deposits, Russian media reported. The law would cap government guarantees at 95,000 rubles ($3,100). The first 20,000 rubles in a citizen's bank deposit would be fully insured, and the next 100,000 rubles would be 75 percent insured. The proposed cap was controversial, but Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister Arkadii Dvorkovich pointed out that most private bank deposits are smaller than 20,000 rubles, Radio Mayak reported. Reuters characterized the bill as "a critical move to restore the trust of millions of Russians in the private banking system" and "a central part of banking-sector reform needed to create a competitive environment for private and state-run banks." LB
...TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE...The Duma on 17 September unanimously approved in its third and final reading a draft law to raise the minimum monthly wage to 600 rubles ($19.61) from 450 rubles, Russian media reported. If passed by the upper house and signed by the president, the law would take effect on 1 October. Its impact would extend far beyond Russians working for low wages, as numerous payments -- including some social benefits and civil fines -- are calculated in terms of multiples of the monthly minimum wage. During the last 10 years, Russian parliaments and governments have frequently approved wage and pension hikes in the run-up to national elections. LB
...AND TO EXPAND SOME OFFICIALS' AUTHORITY TO ISSUE FIREARMS.The Duma on 17 September passed in its first reading an amendment to the law on weapons that would increase the number of "militarized" state organizations, Russian media reported. According to Interfax, the top officials in such organizations would be authorized to issue firearms, not only to employees of their own agencies, but also to private citizens who are carrying out "tasks and functions of state militarized organizations." The amendment passed narrowly with 229 votes over the objections of the Communist faction and former Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov, a deputy in the Fatherland-Unified Russia faction, lenta.ru reported. Also on 17 September, the Duma overwhelmingly rejected in the first reading another proposed amendment to the law on weapons that would have expanded the list of firearms that citizens may own and carry for purposes of self-defense. LB
FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN DENIES UPPER HOUSE IS BROKE.Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov on 17 September vehemently denied reports that the upper house of parliament is broke because of its members' excessive spending on domestic and foreign travel, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 18 September. Speaking to the legislature of Agin-Buryat Autonomous Okrug, Mironov said that during the first half of this year the Federation Council spent 55 percent of is annual budget, leaving plenty of money for salaries and other needs (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September 2003). Mironov agreed that Federation Council deputies should not engage in "parliamentary tourism" (trips not related to official business) at the government's expense, and said he has no plans to curtail his own travel. His remarks came the same day that a leading Unified Russia official accused Mironov of using his official position to promote his Party of Life (see above). LB
POLITICAL CALENDAR29 September-3 October: The Third World Conference on Climate Change will take place in Moscow
30 September-2 October: The Second All-Russian Sociological Congress will take place at Moscow State University
October: Second Civic Forum will be held, according to presidential Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova
October: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to visit Russia, according to Reuters
October: President Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will meet in Yekaterinburg
1 October: Thirty-three percent salary hike for budget-sector workers will go into effect, pending the passage of legislation being revised by a conciliation commission
1 October: Monthly minimum wage to be raised to 600 rubles ($19.80)
1 October: Visas for travel between Poland and Russia will be required
5 October: Presidential election to be held in Chechnya
9 October: The commission for administrative reforms chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin will submit its proposals to the government, according to "Izvestiya" on 14 August
15 October: The Duma will consider the 2004 budget in the second reading
23-26 October: First anniversary of the Moscow-theater hostage crisis
25-26 October: Russian Forum on the development of civil society will be held in Nizhnii Novgorod
26 October: Repeat mayoral elections will be held in Norilsk
29 October: 85th anniversary of the founding of the Komsomol
5 November: President Putin will visit Italy for the EU-Russia summit in Rome
7 November: Campaign for the State Duma elections officially begins
19 November: Deadline for investigators working on the case against Yukos security official Aleksei Pichugin
20 November: Fifth anniversary of the killing of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova
7 December: Bashkortostan will hold a presidential election
7 December: Novosibirsk, Sakhalin and Moscow oblasts will hold gubernatorial elections
7 December: Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug will hold referenda on merging the two regions
7 December: Moscow will hold mayoral election
7 December: Kabardino-Balkariya will hold parliamentary elections
7 December: State Duma elections will be held.
Compiled by Laura Belin (LB)