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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 29, 2004

29 January 2004
Parliament To Revise Law On Presidential Elections For Fifth Time
The 29 January session of Tatarstan's State Council is to discuss 47 legal documents, including draft laws on presidential elections in the republic. According to the laws on presidential elections in Tatarstan adopted in 1991, a presidential candidate had to be over 35 and under 65, permanently residing in the republic for not less than 10 years, and fluent in both state languages -- Tatar and Russian. Under the amendments entered to the law in 1995 Tatarstan's president was allowed only two terms in office, while before that the president had an unlimited number of terms. In 1996, when President Mintimer Shaimiev turned 59, the Tatar parliament withdrew the upper age limit so that anyone above 65 could run.

Four years later, in September 2000, a new amendment to the law allowed people under 30 to seek the presidency. The language requirement, disputed by federal prosecutors as violating the rights of Russia's citizens, was also altered. The provision obliging the candidates to know "both state languages" was replaced with a new one stipulating that they have to be fluent in "state languages." Also, the limitation of presidential terms was completely withdrawn from the law. In December 2000 the requirement of knowing "both state languages" of the republic was returned to the document.

In the new draft to be discussed by the Tatar parliament on 29 January the word "both" is missing again, while the ban on being elected Tatarstan's president more than twice has been returned.

Despite the legal limitation in both Tatarstan and Russia, Shaimiev is currently in his third term in office. In 1999 the Russian Constitutional Court issued a ruling saying that that year's federal law limiting the presidential terms for regional leaders to two had no force on those elected before 1999 and in 2001 Shaimiev's third term was formally counted as the first one. Under these circumstances, it will be legal for him to run for president again in 2006.

Newspaper: Russian State Property Ministry To Open Office In Tatarstan
As a result of Moscow's efforts to build a "power vertical" in Tatarstan, the republic will have two state property ministers, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 28 January. The daily cited government sources as saying the Russian Ministry of State Property will set up a branch in Kazan. It is not known whether Tatarstan's Ministry of Land and Property Relations will continue to function, but current Deputy Minister Lotfulla Shefigullin is reportedly to be chosen to head the federal body.

Over 450 Candidates To Run For 100 Seats In Tatar Parliament
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission (USK) on 28 January finished the accepting candidate applications for the 14 March parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. A total of 187 candidates will contest 50 seats from party lists, while 155 party representatives and some 120 independent candidates will run for the 50 seats in single-mandate districts. The USK will announce the final list of candidates after verifying the applications on 7 February.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Safin Meets With Putin
Federation Council representative for Altai and former Bashkir presidential candidate Relif Safin had a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 28 January, citing Safin's campaign headquarters. During the meeting, Putin said Safin should stop his campaign activities in Bashkortostan. The president also said Safin will be able to run for the Bashkir presidency in the next elections. Meanwhile, Bashkortostan's courts continue to consider Safin's lawsuits contesting the election results.

Bashkir Leader Believes Bashkirs Should Be Given More Rights Than Republic's Other Peoples
Bashkir World Congress Executive Committee Chairman Ekhmet Soleimanov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 28 January that only the language of a titular people may be given state-language status in the republic. Soleimanov said differences should exist between rights of the titular people and rights of other peoples in the republic. Soleimanov also said if other peoples become dominant in the entity, they begin making territorial claims, which may lead to a Bosnia-like situation.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 28 January, ethnologist Ildar Geptrefiqov said that the results of the 7 December Bashkir presidential elections clearly showed the key role of the Tatar factor. President Murtaza Rakhimov understood this and made his statement promising to raise the status of the Tatar language in the republic, Geptrefiqov said. He added, however, that one should realize that Rakhimov will not be able to keep this promise. The reason for this is that Rakhimov is supported by the Bashkir ethnocracy, which will never agree to giving Tatar state-language status, as it sees the Tatar language as the main enemy of Bashkir statehood, Geptrefiqov said.

Bashkortostan's State Duma Deputies Choose Committees
Bashkortostan's State Duma Deputy Mikhail Bugera was elected a deputy to Unified Russia faction head Boris Gryzlov, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 28 January. A total of nine deputies were elected to the State Duma from the republic, including five single-mandate deputies and four elected from party lists. All nine represent Unified Russia. Anatolii Startsev joined the Industry and Technology Committee, Franis Seifullin the Agriculture Committee, Zeinulla Bagyshaev and Vener Kamaltdinov the Duma Regulations Committee, and Aleksandr Furman and Mikhail Bugera the Natural Resources Committee. Mars Kelmetov will work in the Legislation Committee, Kamile Dewletova in the Women, Family, and Youth Affairs Committee, and Mansur Eyupov in the Ethnic Policy Committee.

Acting Head Of Tax Ministry's Bashkir Directorate Appointed
The Russian Tax Ministry on 28 January appointed Olga Afanaseva acting head of the ministry's Bashkir Directorate, Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. Since November, Afanaseva served as deputy head of the directorate while previously heading a department. Former head of the directorate Aleksandr Veremeenko, brother of former Bashkir presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko, had been heading the body for half a year and resigned on the eve of the 7 December presidential elections.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova