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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 8, 2003

8 December 2003
Unified Russia Polls Over 60 Percent In Tatarstan
The Tatar Central Election Commission reported on 8 December that 73.3 percent of the republic's voters took part in the 7 December State Duma elections. According to the results this morning -- when 80 percent of the ballots had been counted -- 63.45 percent voted for the Kremlin-backed Unified Russia party, 8.43 percent for the Communist Party, and 5.45 percent for the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Some 3.37 percent voted "against all" parties. The other parties polled under 5 percent: Motherland (3.26 percent), Party of National Rebirth-Party of Life (2.83 percent), Yabloko (2.1 percent), Party of Pensioners (1.61 percent), and Union of Rightist Forces (1.3 percent). In the Elmet single-mandate district, Marat Mehdiev (Unified Russia) is leading with 71 percent of the vote, 6.15 percent voted against all candidates, while Fendes Safiullin (Motherland), who was a deputy in the previous State Duma, gathered 4.72.percent of the vote. In the Tuben Kama district, 69.78 percent of the vote went to Albert Salikhov (Unified Russia), Robert Sadyiqov (Communist Party) came in second with 8.59 percent. In the Volga district, Airat Kheirullin (Unified Russia) gathered 32.4 percent, followed by Ivan Grachev, who was deputy in the past State Duma, with 21.4 percent. The average turnout in cities and towns totaled 70 percent, including 61 percent in Kazan; in rural areas it was between 85 percent and 90 percent. In the republic's Elki and Etne raions, the turnout was around 99 percent.

Shaimiev Says Election Day Marks Beginning Of Formation Of Multi-Party System
Visiting a polling district on 7 December, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said that election day was the starting point of the formation of a real multi-party system in Russia. "Only through the establishment of a multi-party system we may become closer to a civil society, without the creation of which democracy cannot exist."

Extra Security In Force For Elections
Tatar Deputy Interior Minister Rafil Nogomanov said on 7 December that the republic's police took extra security measures on the day of State Duma elections, reported the same day. Nogomanov said 6,000 police officers were on duty in the republic's 2,932 electoral districts and an additional 15,000 officers on service outside them. Meanwhile, a public reception of State Duma candidate and Unified Russia's Deputy Secretary-General Oleg Morozov was raided on the night of 4-5 December, reported. Assailants broke windows and stole computers and other devices and documents from the office.

Kreshens Given New Ethnic Status In Tatarstan
The deputy head of the Russian State Statistics Committee, Sergei Kolesnikov, said on 2 December that Christian Tatars (Kreshens) have obtained a new status as an ethnic sub-group of Tatars following the 2002 Russia-wide census, reported on 4 December, citing Interfax. Kolesnikov said, "scholars of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, including its director Valerii Tishkov, consider Kreshens to be an ethnic sub-group of Tatars." Meanwhile, an unidentified expert from the same institute told Interfax that institute scholars have three times appealed to the State Statistics Committee to recognize Kreshens as a separate people, not an ethnic sub-group of the Tatar people. The source said, "institute scholars are strongly puzzled by the...behavior of their director and the State Statistics Committee's final decision." Kolesnikov said that according to the 2002 census results, 24,700 Kreshens live in Russia.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Presidential Elections To Go To Second Round
Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, speaking at a press conference at 10 a.m. Moscow time on 8 December, said the turnout in Bashkortostan's presidential elections was 86 percent, with incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov receiving 43 percent of the vote, Sergei Veremeenko 24 percent, and Relif Safin 22 percent. In the initial stages of vote counting in rural areas, Rakhimov had 70 percent of the vote, but his lead gradually declined with the results from urban areas.

According to Veshnyakov, since none of the candidates managed to win more than 50 percent of the vote, the elections will go to a second round. He also noted that only a small number of voters, 2.31 percent voted against all candidates. According to the Bashkir Election Code, the second round is to take place within 14 days after the first round.

Bashkir Election Commission Head Praises Legal Conduct Of Elections...
Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov told a press conference on 7 December that during that day's elections for Bashkir president and Russian State Duma, the USK received "some 80 complaints on election violations, all of them non-flagrant," Bashkir Satellite Television reported the same day. Kinjegulov praised the monitoring of Bashkostostan's elections by the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), which "contributed to the general conduct of the elections."

...While TsIK Head Admits Violations During Both Votes
TsIK) Chairman Veshnyakov told a press conference at 12 a.m. Moscow time on 8 December that the TsIK "is thoroughly looking into" alleged violations in Bashkortostan's elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. "We have established some irrationality in the actions of republican election commissions and now, in close cooperation between Russia's TsIK and its representatives in Bashkortostan Republic, there is a proper inspection under way." Veshnyakov said.

He added: "We have Bashkortostan under special control. We will take a maximum scrupulous approach to all violations in the process of elections for Russian State Duma, as well as Bashkortostan's president."

Vote-Counting Machines Reportedly Fail In Bashkortostan
Electronic vote-counting machines installed at 22 election districts of the Dim regional election commission in Ufa failed to ensure the correct processing of ballots, RosBalt reported on 7 December, citing the USK. The machines reportedly came out with an unacceptable error ratio exceeding 1 percent. Numerous errors reportedly slowed down the vote counting, which was switched to manual mode.

Rakhimov Denies Allegations Of Election-Related Violations...
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov told reporters after casting his ballots on 7 December that "despite all provocations and ungrounded allegations about the elections in our republic, for us its more important what our republican election commission says," Tatarstan Yanga Gasyr Television (TNV) reported the same day, citing its correspondent in Ufa.

...As State TV Offers Political Ads On Election Day
As voting was going on on 7 December, Bashkir Satellite Television (BST) aired interviews with citizens leaving the voting booths, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The voters spoke about their preferences in Bashkir presidential vote, saying that they cast their vote for someone who "is conducting a wise social policy," "implementing gas-network development program," and someone whom they "have known for many years already." Quite evidently, these statements, without mentioning the name of the candidate, hinted at the incumbent, Rakhimov.

Russian law prohibits promoting any of the candidates starting from 24 hours before the vote and on the day of elections

Rakhimov's Rivals Complain Of Numerous Violations During Vote
Many observers representing Rakhimov's rivals on election commissions across Bashkortostan were prevented from monitoring the vote-counting process by representatives of local election commissions and police, reported on 8 December. The website also reported such violations as the absence of private voting booths, voters being followed into the booths, or voting by people without proper residential registration.

FSB Rates Presidential Candidates
According to a widely representative, yet confidential opinion survey conducted by the Bashkir branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) before the scandal with forged election ballots on 4 December (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 5 December 2003), 36 percent of those polled supported Rakhimov, 21 percent Relif Safin, and 17 percent Veremeenko, an unnamed official on the Bashkir presidential staff told an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent on 8 December. The official said the FSB has a reputation for its precise and unbiased opinion surveys, which are used for strategic and operative planning. However, these figures differ from the results of the vote, which could be explained not only by changes in public opinion, but also by some of those polled not voting.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi