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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 17, 2004

17 March 2004
Unified Russia Dominates Local Parliament Elections
According to preliminary results of the State Council elections in single-mandate districts, 39 seats were won by candidates from Unified Russia and the other 11 went to independent candidates, reported on 16 March, citing the Tatar Central Election Commission. Another 47 representatives of Unified Russia have been elected from the party list, while three seats were won by the Communist Party.

According to the law on the State Council passed last year, the Tatar parliament will have 100 deputies instead of the previous 130, 50 of them elected from party lists and another 50 from single-mandate districts. Unified Russia received 69.96 percent of the party-list vote, while the Communist Party came in second with 6.27 percent. Parties must receive at least 7 percent to be represented in the State Council. However, the election law says that if one party gets over 50 votes while no other party collects 7 percent, then the party that finished second is given seats in the parliament.

Companies Not Interested In Alternative Service
Labor and Employment Minister Boris Zakharov told a government meeting on 16 March that the inability of many companies in Tatarstan to provide draftees who opt for alternative civil service with housing makes them uninterested in hiring them. Zakharov said that among companies that offered positions for such servicemen are the Kazan Gunpowder Plant, which offered 60 jobs with wages between 3,000 rubles ($105) and 3,500 rubles, and the Raifa professional school, which is ready to employ 10 servicemen with wages between 2,000 and 2,700 rubles.

Sixteen draftees have applied to Tatarstan's enlistment office for alternative civil service so far this year, Tatar Deputy Military Commissioner Vadim Safiullin told a briefing in the Cabinet of Ministers on 16 March. There were 37 requests last year. Under the federal law on alternative civil service that came into force on 1 January, the term of such service is 21 months for people with higher education and 42 months for other persons, and those who receive permission for alternative service are to serve outside the region where they live.

Chally Religious School To Become Islamic University Affiliate
Tatar Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Gusman Iskhaqov said on 16 March in Chally that an affiliate of the Russian Islamic University for female students will be opened on the basis of the local Darussalam madrasah, RFE/RL's Chally correspondent reported the same day. The Darussalam madrasah was opened after its predecessor, the Yoldyz madrasah, was closed for propagation of Wahhabism by teachers from Arab countries. Iskhaqov said the madrasah cannot be maintained in its current form after Yoldyz gained notoriety far beyond Tatarstan. He added that Arab teachers who sought in the 1990s to turn Tatarstan within five or six years into an Arab-like region were wrong, as it is impossible to quickly revive a religion that was oppressed for 70 years. Iskhaqov said Nurislam Ibrahimov, a Tashkent Islamic University graduate who has been working as an imam in several Kazan mosques for several years, was appointed affiliate rector.

Second Merchant Fined For Promoting Drugs
A Chally court has fined a local businesswoman 2,000 rubles for promoting drugs, reported on 16 March. The woman was selling T-shirts and other items featuring hemp leaves and inscriptions in English and Russian promoting illegal drugs. This is the second case prosecuted by the Tatar State Committee on Supervision of Drug Trafficking this year. In January, a businessman was fined for selling similar products in Kazan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Election Watchdog Critical Of American System Of Voting
In a 16 March editorial, the state news agency Bashinform attacked the "ungrounded" criticism in Western media about the recent presidential elections in Russia. The agency cited Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission chairman Bariy Kinjegulov as saying that Charles Maggie, an American observer, who monitored the recent Russian presidential elections in the republic on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was "quite surprised to see such a technological novelty as electronic voting booths." Kinjegulov said that the Bashkir system is far more advanced than the U.S. system.

Unified Russia Wins Majority In Ufa City Hall
As a result of 14 March elections for Bashkortostan's municipal councils, the Kremlin-backed Unified Russia party entered 50 of its members to the 60-seat Ufa City Council, while three more members will go to court to challenge the outcome of voting in their districts, Rosbalt reported on 16 March. Unified Russia already has about 110 representatives among 120 deputies in the Bashkir parliament. Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission is yet to release the very final results of the votes for Russian president and the municipal councils in late March.

Hungarian Businessmen Eager To Invest In Bashkortostan
Hungarian Ambassador to the Russian Federation Ferentz Kontra told Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on 16 March that his country's companies are ready to invest up to $150 million in Bashkortostan's economy, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. The investments will expectedly be directed to the reconstruction of the historical part of Ufa, construction of the hockey arena, and a new surgery complex for a cardiology center. Kontra added that "we highly appreciate the political and economic stability and interethnic concord in Bashkortostan." With a $4 million turnover of annual mutual trade, Hungary is among Bashkortostan's top 10 foreign trade partners. Bashkir exports to Hungary are mostly petrochemical products, synthetic rubber, timber, and black metals. Hungary exports measurement devices, pharmaceutical products, and chemicals to Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi