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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 16, 2004

16 February 2004
President Shaimiev Comments On Political, Nationalities Issues...
In a 15 February interview with RFE/RL, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev asserted that the main principles of the power-sharing treaty between Tatarstan and Russia -- such as Tatarstan's sovereignty and statehood -- remain in force under the Russian Constitution, since Russia's republics are states. Shaimiev added that bilateral treaties remain the way to settle disputes between Russia and entities within the federation, adding that a similar treaty is being developed to address relations between Russia and Chechnya.

Federal bodies have done nothing to resolve issues of national and cultural development for Tatars, Shaimiev claimed, adding that the establishment of the Tatar National and Cultural Autonomy has remained an achievement in formal terms only. National republics and peoples have no real chance of resolving their national problems with the help of federal legislative bodies, Shaimiev said. He claimed that when he was a Federation Council member, it was never possible to promote issues concerning national territories, republics, or minority peoples at the legislative level, as "we always remained a minority." Even in the totalitarian Soviet Union, there was a nationalities chamber, he added. The Federation Council plays no role in political life and does not represent Russia in either international or domestic life, Shaimiev said.

Shaimiev said his federal counterpart Vladimir Putin will never depart from a democratic method of governing, as Russia has no other choice than to develop as a democratic state. Shaimiev added that Unified Russia will occupy the center-right and rightist territory on the political landscape. He expressed his belief that Unified Russia will win a majority in Tatarstan's parliamentary elections on 14 March.

...And On Interfaith Relations...
Addressing a question on negative perceptions of Muslims within society during his RFE/RL interview on 15 February, Shaimiev said the problem has always existed in Russia. Under the currently unstable political situation in the country, he said, there are many politicians apparently willing to exploit that factor. Russia should be better equipped to help ease relations between Christianity and Islam, as it has the experience of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and other regions in which Muslims and Christians have peacefully coexisted for a long time. He said Jadidism, a more "secular" version of Islam developed in Tatarstan, takes into account the fact that Muslims live here alongside Christians. Shaimiev also said no religious motives lie behind Chechnya's move toward independence, adding that Chechen leaders have never declared that they are fighting against Christianity.

Shaimiev Confronts Accusations Of Nepotism...
In the same 15 February RFE/RL interview, Shaimiev responded to reports concerning relatives who occupy leading posts in the republican administration and who control vast assets. The president's nephew, Ilshat Ferdiev, is general director of Tatenergo, while another cousin, Renat Ferdiev, heads the Zei Raion administration. Shaimiev said both are effective managers and should not suffer because their cousin is president. "If I prevent them [from occupying posts], then it is I who has to leave," since they are younger, he said. Shaimiev said Tatenergo has been transformed from a debt-saddled company into one of Russia's leading energy companies since Ilshat Ferdiev took the reins of management. He said the Russian mindset should get used to senior officials possessing considerable assets. He asked why presidents of foreign countries should be able to possess property, but not Russian leaders.

...And Says Another Presidential Term Would Be Excessive
In response to a question concerning a possible new term as president, Shaimiev told RFE/RL on 15 February that he is considering such a bid but added that four five-year terms as president might be "excessive." "I would not like Tatarstan to have a 70-year-old president." He also said he thinks about the issue of his successor, which he called "the most difficult problem." Shaimiev, 67, was first elected Tatarstan president in June 1991.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

TsIK Chairman Slams Bashkir Election Commission
Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told a news conference in Kazan on 13 February that the December 2003 presidential and parliamentary vote in Bashkortostan was "indecent." He emphasized that the results of the vote obtained official recognition, "but we have a lot of claims against the [local] election commission and its members." To back up his statement, Veshnyakov said that his commission "had to repeatedly register and cancel the registration" of some of the Duma candidates as well as deal with the "denied registration to presidential candidate [Sergei] Veremeenko." According to Veshnyakov, TsIK had twice considered Veremeenko's registration after it was rejected in Ufa and finally the republican commission had to obey the decision of the Moscow body. Veshnyakov also mentioned the "appalling fact" of illegally printed voting ballots, which were found at an Ufa printing house owned by the Bashkir presidential staff. The case is being investigated by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office. Veshnyakov said that " the Bashkir Central Election Commission is an example of how an election commission should not work."

Former Presidential Candidate Will Dispute Bashkir Electoral Laws In European Court
Rimma Vodenko, who ran for the Bashkir presidency in December 2003, will appeal to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, Rosbalt reported on 13 February. Vodenko's earlier lawsuit against the Bashkir State Assembly and President Murtaza Rakhimov was rejected by the Russian and Bashkir supreme courts. Vodenko has argued that the paragraphs of the Bashkir Electoral Code listing the registration fee for presidential candidates as 9.75 million rubles ($342,586) infringe on the election rights of Russian citizens, especially women, who are "as a whole, less well-to-do than men." During the presidential campaign, Vodenko failed to submit 60,000 signatures or the fee required to obtain registration. She has insisted that Bashkortostan should follow the example of Russia's Kurgan, Orenburg, or Kaliningrad oblasts, where, according to her, the registration fee is under $3,000.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi