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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 21, 2003

21 February 2003
In Annual Address, Shaimiev Discusses Harmonization With Federal Laws...
In his annual message on Tatarstan's situation to the republic's State Council on 20 February, President Mintimer Shaimiev described 2002 as a "crucial year," characterized by the process of "adjusting Tatarstan's legislation to federal ones and preparing the new version of Tatarstan's treaty with the federal center, awaiting certain changes in the State Council's structure, and expansion of the sphere of local self-government," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

Shaimiev said he hoped the expected signing of a new power-sharing treaty with Moscow would complete the process of legal harmonization, "which was necessary but seems to have turned into a one-sided campaign," where regional laws were brought into conformity with federal laws, but problems in the federal legislation were overlooked.

Shaimiev added that some Russian politicians would like "to return to a unitary state" and Tatarstan "bears the burden of protecting democratic principles" and preserving Tatarstan's status is part of "understanding the necessity and inevitability of federalism in Russia."

...Tatar Script Reform...
Commenting on the Tatar language's script reform, Shaimiev said that federal authorities had violated the Russian Constitution and norms of international law including but not limited to the European convention on ethnic minorities by adopting the amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation in December 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2002). Shaimiev admitted, "It is possible to discuss the timeliness of the transition of the Tatar language to Latin script, but its impossible to dispute the right itself."

...And Federal Power-Sharing Reform...
Shaimiev's address also touched the issue of government and local self-government reform and the issue of dividing jurisdiction among federal, regional, and local authorities. In his opinion, the draft document issued by the Russian presidential power-sharing commission implies further intrusion on the powers of territorial entities (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 February 2003). Shaimiev said that "if adopted as they are now, the drafts will hand over some of the entities' powers to the [federal] center, which is already overloaded with them, and the rest will be transferred to the local self-government bodies. Knowing how laws are adopted in the Federal Assembly, we have to be ready for this variant."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Daily Reports Violations In Bashkir Electoral Campaign...
In an article titled "It Is Not Easy To Be a Candidate in Bashkortostan," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 21 February about violations during the electoral campaign for the Bashkir State Assembly. It is alleged that an administrative source eliminated numerous opposition candidates when they registered, the daily reported. It described as "unique even for the Russian electoral experience" a case of the registration refusal of Bashkir Tatar Public Center leaders Zahir Khekimov and Marat Ramazanov, whom the electoral commission ruled every signature in favor of their candidacies was invalid. The paper commented that, given their influence among Bashkortostan's Tatars, it is hard to believe that they were unable to even persuade their relatives to back their candidacies. The daily reported that a court that heard their appeals also doubted the conclusions of the electoral commission and "wisely" stated that they were each short by one signature in order to be properly registered. The newspaper cited unnamed observers of the elections as reporting about "black lists" that included the names of not only opposition candidates but other candidates who did not have the support of Bashkir authorities. The daily also reported that the mother of opposition candidate Viktor Chernov was beaten by unknown assailants, while a daughter of another candidate was threatened with the loss of her job. Observers also said that not only the heads of raions but even senior republican officials promote "official" candidates during their work time. In addition, teachers and doctors were charged with collecting signatures in favor of "official" candidates.

...As Does A Candidate In Appeal To CEC Heads...
"Trud" on 21 February published an appeal by one Akberdin, a Bashkir parliamentary candidate in the Chermosanskii electoral district, to Russian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov and Bashkir Central Electoral Commission Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov. He said there had been "unprecedented violations of legislation" during the electoral campaign for the Bashkir State Assembly. Akberdin said unknown persons questioned people who provided their signatures for his candidacy. That is a violation of Bashkir electoral law, under which only interior ministry employees are empowered to conduct such a check in the case that they are asked to by an electoral commission, Akberdin added. He also said that the heads of several companies, including the state-run Davlekanovo Boot and Shoe Factory, threaten to penalize or fire their employees if they did not vote for Ramil Mewliyarov, a candidate from Unified Russia. The director of the Davlekanovo Boot and Shoe Factory is Mewliyarov's agent, Akberdin said.

...While Four Candidates Quit Parliamentary Race
Four candidates for the Bashkir State Assembly have refused to participate further in the race, RosBalt reported on 20 February, citing the Bashkir Central Electoral Commission. All are said to have reached the decision voluntarily on the grounds of Article 53 of the republican Electoral Code, the report said. Two of them were campaigning in Ufa and two others in Boro (Birsk). Thus, the number of candidates for the 120 seats has been reduced to 392.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova