Accessibility links

Breaking News

Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 10, 2003

10 December 2003
Shaimiev Sees Tatar-Language Issue As Key In Bashkir Presidential Elections
Commenting on 8 December at a press conference in Kazan on the results of the presidential elections in Bashkortostan, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the tense situation there might have been avoided with greater emphasis on an open society and media freedoms, and with authorities able to live and work in conditions of glasnost and tolerant receptive to criticism.

Shaimiev also said issues of the development of a native language, spirituality, traditions, and their preservation become paramount. "The issue of state status for the Tatar language should have been and will be resolved in Bashkortostan sooner or later," Shaimiev said. He added: "We cannot calmly look and show no reaction to violations of Tatars' rights in Bashkortostan where they are more than a million. So I said we cannot interfere in Bashkortostan's internal affairs...but we think a solution on the issue of the Tatar language must be found. The future president should not deceive himself into thinking that this issue will disappear." He also said that people should be allowed instruction in their native language and as many classes as necessary should be provided.

Shaimiev said that if not for the Tatar-language issue, the incumbent Bashkir president could be re-elected easily, since the economic situation in the republic is favorable. He added that incumbents were re-elected even in regions being behind Bashkortostan in this respect. "This [Tatar-language] problem was created from nothing and this fact has been used [by other candidates]. So anyone who will lead the republic has to take into account its ethnic composition. It would be better if the presidential candidates determined their position on the status of the Tatar language before the second round of elections," he concluded.

Foreign Investments Up More Than Tenfold
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov said on 9 December that direct foreign investment in Tatarstan reached $42.2 million in the first nine months of the year, almost 18 times as much as in the same period the previous year, reported the same day.

Tatarstan is currently eighth in Russia in terms of foreign investment, while until 2000 in ranked third. Tatarstan has 68 joint ventures with Turkey, 31 with the United States, and 26 with Germany. A total of 444 companies with foreign investment have been registered by the Tatar Justice Ministry.

Salikhov cited representatives of 40 large companies in the republic with foreign investment questioned recently by the ministry as saying that the inflow of foreign capital is hindered by legal shortcomings in Tatarstan and the overly long procedure of registering ownership by the republican Registration Chamber.

Parliamentary Committee Promotes Bonuses For Use Of Tatar And Russian
The State Council Committee on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues suggested at its 9 December meeting that 2 million rubles ($67,800) be allocated every year by the republic for libraries to purchase Tatar-language and folklore books, reported the same day. The committee was discussing amendments to the law on languages and the state program on developing the republic's languages for 2004-13. The committee proposed that local television programs devoted to the most important cultural and political events be translated into Tatar and Russian. The committee also called for the introduction of bonuses for employees using in their work both state languages, Tatar and Russian. Committee head Razil Weliev spoke against the Tatar Finance Ministry's proposal to cut the 10-year state program's budget of 140 million rubles in half.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Election Commission Chairman Announces Updated Results Of Vote...
Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov on 9 December announced the latest (but not final) results of the Russian State Duma and Bashkir presidential elections, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In the Duma vote, Kremlin-backed Unified Russia won the support of 38.9 percent in Bashkortostan, the Communist Party won 13.04 percent, the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 10.94 percent, and the newly formed Motherland National-Patriotic Union bloc won 6.53 percent. All other parties failed to overcome the 5 percent barrier, necessary for entering the lower house of the Russian parliament. In addition, Unified Russia's candidates won in all eight single-mandate districts of Bashkortostan, thus becoming the republic's representatives in the Duma. In the Bashkir presidential elections, which will go to a second round, the incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov is reportedly leading the vote with 42.59 percent of the vote, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko remains second with 25.38 percent, and former LUKoil vice president Relif Safin is third with 23.03 percent. The final results are due to be released on 11 December.

...Blames TsIK For Meddling In Bashkir Internal Affairs...
During the same press conference, Kinjegulov said that in his opinion, Russia's Central Election Commission (TsIK), which insisted on registering Veremeenko as a presidential candidate despite USK protests, has "violated democratic procedures by interfering with a regional election campaign," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. He suggested that instead of granting Veremeenko official registration, the TsIK "could have advised the candidate to appeal in court." Kinjegulov also questioned the legality of the USK dissolving the TsIK, something that TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has threatened to do in the past. Kinjegulov said that he was told by one of the TsIK officials monitoring the election, that "if it was not for the complaints from the candidates, the conduct of our election could serve as an example for other regions of the Russian Federation." About 100 complaints were filed by the presidential and Russian State Duma candidates after the 7 December vote.

...Admits Illegal Actions By Bashkir Police
The USK chairman said that the republic's traffic police had "exceeded their powers" by restricting access to buses with independent election monitors on board on the eve of the 7 December elections, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 December. Buses from the Orenburg and Samara oblasts were reportedly stopped on Bashkortostan's administrative border, Rosbalt reported on 9 December. One of the Orenburg buses was reportedly attacked with stones and 25 monitors were injured.

Safin Will Challenge First-Round Results...
Bashkir presidential candidate Relif Safin told a press conference in Ufa on 9 December that he intends to dispute the latest results of the vote count, which he said he considers to be "unjust," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. According to the latest results, Safin, who is currently in third place, will not proceed to the second round, which is to be fought out between Rakhimov and Veremeenko. Safin said that according to his data, the incumbent president won only 35 percent of the vote, rather than the officially stated 43 percent. Safin said that he actually received 31 percent of the vote, instead of the official 23 percent.

...Says Second-Round Contenders Already Vying For His Support
During the same conference, Safin said that if his loss in the elections is officially confirmed, both of the remaining candidates "will negotiate" with him, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Safin said that both Rakhimov and Veremeenko have already sent their representatives to contact him, but no meetings have been arranged so far. However, Safin, the former vice-president of LUKOil, said that the new Bashkir president "should be a Muslim." He said, "I'm saying this openly, not intending to hurt the Russians. I myself consider Russian to be my native language. But 65 percent of Bashkortostan's population speak Bashkir and Tatar and one should take that into consideration." Among the remaining two candidates, only the incumbent Rakhimov is known to be a Muslim.

Putin, Rakhimov Discuss Russia's Cooperation With ICO
President Vladimir Putin met with Rakhimov on 9 December to discuss the further development of Russia's cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), RTR TV reported the same day. In October 2003, Rakhimov was a member of Putin's delegation attending the OIC summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. According to RTR, Rakhimov actively participated in talks on Russia's entry to the OIC. The meeting of the two presidents took place despite the fact that the Bashkir president, currently seeking his third term, is officially on pre-election leave and the presidential powers are in the hands of Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov.

Tatar President Urges Candidates To Resolve Tatar-Language Issue
Commenting on the Bashkir presidential election, Mintimer Shaimiev, the president in neighboring Tatarstan, told a press conference in Kazan on 8 December that, "Bashkir society has to learn how to live with full openness, free speech, and tolerance of criticism of the government." He referred to the 4 December discovery of forged voting ballots, which were found in a printing house connected to the presidential administration. He also referred to TsIK Chairman Veshnyakov, who called the Bashkir vote "the most scandalous" compared to other presidential and gubernatorial elections throughout Russia. Shaimiev also said that "Bashkortostan has to find a solution to the issue of the Tatar language," before the second round of elections. The Bashkir and Russian language have official status in the republic, whereas Tatar, which is also widely spoken, does not.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi