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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 25, 2003

25 September 2003
Minority Shareholder Questions Legality Of State Holding Company
Newport Capital has appealed to Tatarstan's Arbitration Court claiming that the establishment of the Svyazinvestneftekhim holding company by the Tatar government in May is illegal, the "Vremya i Dengi" daily wrote on 24 September. Newport Capital is registered in the Caribbean islands off-shore zone and has an office in Kolomna, Moscow Oblast. The state-owned holding was created in order to stimulate investment in the Tatar economy. It pooled state-owned shares packages from 18 major republican industries at a total cost of $1.2 billion. The industries include the Tatneft oil concern and the Kazanorgsintez chemical plant, in which Newport Capital owns 0.1 percent and 0.57 percent shares respectively. On 28 September, the Arbitration Court will consider the suit, which alleges that the Tatar government, despite the federal law on privatization, failed to disclose information on the planned handover of share packages, as well as the cost of the deal.

Less Than 1 Percent Of Population Still Carry Old Soviet Passports
Yevgenii Davletshin, deputy interior minister responsible for immigration policies, told reporters on 24 September that more than 3 million new Russian passports have been distributed in Tatarstan, which represents 99.3 percent of the republic's population over 16, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. According to federal regulations, by 31 December all of Tatarstan's adult citizens must have replaced their Soviet passports with new ones, which upon request may contain additional pages with Tatar state symbols and the bearer's data in the Tatar language.

Tatneft, Bank Of New York Agree To Resume Cooperation
Tatneft and the Bank of New York have signed an agreement on prolonging their cooperation for the protection of investors' rights, Intertat reported on 24 September. The document was signed in Elmet, the unofficial capital of Tatarstan's oil industries, during the visit of the bank's vice president.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Speaker Says Postponement Of Local Elections Not In Violation Of Law
Bashkir State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev told a press conference on 24 September that the decision by the republican parliament to postpone local elections is legal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 September 2003), Interfax reported the same day. The elections have been moved back from 7 December to March 2004 and will be held concurrently with the Russian presidential elections. Tolkachev said that the law allows federation subjects to extend the terms of their elected bodies for no more than one year and to decide if elections are held in tandem. Tolkachev added that deputies were also guided by opinion polls that revealed that the electorate was tired of elections. On 11 September, Valentin Nikitin, a State Duma deputy from Bashkortostan, appealed to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov saying the decision to postpone the elections violates the republic's constitution.

Electronic Ballot Boxes To Be Used In December Elections
Bashkir Central Election Committee Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov told a press conference on 24 September that electronic ballot boxes will be installed in the republic's 30 electoral districts during the December State Duma and Bashkir presidential elections. Bashkortostan is among seven regions in Russia participating in the ballot-box experiment, Kinjegulov said, adding that they will reduce the "influence of the human factor in the process of counting votes." The devise will automatically provide results, including the number of voters and numbers of votes received by all candidates. Kinjegulov noted, however, that manual data will still be considered final even if it differs from data provided by the electronic ballot boxes.

Presidential Candidates Face Language Exam
A group of linguists from the Bashkir Central Election Commission (CEC) will evaluate whether presidential candidates can speak Bashkir, CEC Chairman Kinjegulov told a press conference on 24 September. He said the CEC is obliged to meet the needs of the constitution, which specifies that the Bashkir president must speak both state languages of the republic: Russian and Bashkir. Kinjegulov refused to comment on the procedure, saying that the CEC has no previous experience in this matter.

Bashkir Opposition Calls For Dismissal Of CEC Head
Representatives of Bashkortostan's opposition, State Duma deputy Valentin Nikitin (Communist Party), Rus civic group leader Anatolii Dubovskii, Igor Rabinovich, the head of Yabloko's Bashkir branch, and State Assembly deputies Eduard Khosnetdinov and Gennadii Shabaev, appealed on 24 September by letter to Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov to dismiss Kinjegulov, the head of the Bashkir CEC, RosBalt reported the same day. The group accused Kinjegulov of violating federal electoral law in order to "implement the will of the incumbent president of the republic." The authors listed alleged violations that took place during the republic's parliamentary elections in March, including falsifying results of graphology probes and refusing to register candidates. Representatives of the opposition "are prevented by all possible means from taking part in elections," the letter read. The authors also wrote that during the March parliamentary campaign, okrug election commissions were not formed in the republic despite the federal CEC ordering this, so candidates had to address their complaints to republic-level bodies. Kinjegulov, 55, was appointed CEC head in 1996.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova