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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 12, 2003

12 December 2003
Mukhametshin Says Russian Constitution Does Not Represent Interests Of Nationalities...
In an interview devoted to the 10th anniversary of the Russian Constitution, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said the establishment of the major principles of federalism -- including the right of federation subjects to determine their status and to have their own legislation -- is one of the major achievements of the Russian Constitution, reported on 11 December. Mukhametshin said the improvement and development of treaty-based relations with the federation remain a "strong aspiration" for the Tatar authorities.

Mukhameshin criticized the fact that the multiethnic nature of the federation is not taken into account enough. He called for the creation of mechanisms for securing the equal participation in the legislative process (at the federal and local level) for representatives of the country's nationalities. He said it would help if representatives from all nationalities were parliamentary deputies; electoral legislation may be amended to introduce quotas for representatives of all nationalities, Mukhametshin said. He noted that proposals to revise and amend the Russian Constitution are untimely, adding that problems linked to the main law are to be resolved not through its revision but through harmonization procedures and revision of federal laws.

Mukhametshin added that some federal laws violate constitutional principles and norms and, instead of outlining general principles, dictate to federation subjects how their public political life should be organized.

...Says Tatarstan-New Century To Form Bloc With Unified Russia In Tatar Parliamentary Elections
Speaker Mukhametshin, who is the head of the public political movement Tatarstan-New Century (TYaG) and secretary of the political council of Unified Russia in Tatarstan, told reporters on 11 December that TYaG will form a bloc with Unified Russia in the State Council electoral campaign, reported the same day. He said establishing a bloc with Unified Russia was justified as some 100,000 TYaG supporters and over 16,000 of its members supported Unified Russia. Mukhametshin said the bloc will likely run its candidates in all the republic's 50 single-mandate districts. At the same time, he said separate factions of Unified Russia and TYaG will likely be formed in the new parliament. Commenting on the State Duma elections, Mukhametshin said the Russian State Duma has been "deserted" without rightist parties and the parliament does not represent all layers of society. He expressed hope that, despite Tatarstan's 7 percent threshold in parliamentary elections, at least three parties of different orientation -- centrist, leftist, and rightist -- will be represented in the State Council.

New Version Of Tatar Latin Script Proposed
An initiative group bringing together the heads of Tatar civic organizations, Tatar-language Internet sites, and representatives of the scientific and creative intelligentsia signed on 10 December a protocol on a new version of the Tatar Latin alphabet (Inalif), Tatar-inform reported the same day. Rafael Khekimov, an adviser to the Tatar president, said that the proposal by the initiative group has nothing to do with politics but is a practical measure. The group called on all persons interested in taking part in discussions on Inalif's advantages and shortcomings to come forward. The introduction of the Tatar Latin script in Tatarstan was halted by the adoption in December 2002 of the amendment to the federal law on languages, according to which using a Cyrillic script is mandatory for all state languages in Russia (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Insists He Is Not Going Away...
President Murtaza Rakhimov made a public statement on 11 December to deny rumors that Moscow offered him an ambassador's post "in some oriental country," in exchange for his agreement to quit as Bashkir president, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. These allegations were spread by the website maintained by Rakhimov's rival in the current presidential race, Sergei Veremeenko, after Rakhimov met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on 8 December (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 December 2003). In the statement, publicized by republican TV, radio, and print media, Rakhimov said that he "is not going to leave the republic to some oligarchs."

Rakhimov said that during the Moscow talks, Putin "expressed his concern with the pace of the presidential elections" and "was worried with the possible coming of oligarchs," adding, "He said, 'listen, we cannot let the oligarchs come [take over the republic] -- they will bring no use.'"

...Emphasizes His Role In Republic's Life...
In his statement, Rakhimov also noted that in the last 12 years under his leadership, life in Bashkortostan "has improved sufficiently." "One should take a look at what our republic was before the 1990s, it was absolutely different from what we have now," he said. He said the implementation of the republic's social programs, such as gas-network development, good maintenance of roads, the abundance of shops and of goods "are the result of many years of our hard work."

...And Admits Changes To Status Of Tatar Language
According to the printed version of Rakhimov's statement distributed by the state-owned Bashinform agency and reprinted by the largely state-owned Bashkir press, the president is considering the possibility of altering his political program by adding the "constructive proposals" of the candidates who failed to make it to the second round, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 12 December.

He criticized his rivals for attempting to use the ethnic factor in their campaigns and pledged that after the vote he will return to the ethnic policy issues, including the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan. Rakhimov's written statement said: "I will come out with a legislative initiative for entering corresponding amendments to our law on the republic's peoples' languages. I'm convinced that we will manage to find sound and mutually acceptable solutions here."

Despite the fact that Tatar is spoken by some 1 million people in Bashkortostan, only Russian and Bashkir are currently recognized as state languages.

Numerous Complaints Delay Release Of Official Results
Despite previous claims, Bashkorotstan's Central Election Commission (USK) on 11 December declined to announce the official final results of the 7 December vote for Bashkir president, RosBalt reported the same day. USK reportedly is still considering numerous complaints of electoral violations filed by the candidates. However, RosBalt cited USK officials as saying the current results are likely to be subject only to slight changes and no changes are expected to the two candidates in the second round, Murtaza Rakhimov and Sergei Veremeenko. The USK is due to announce the official vote results and set the date for the second round of elections on 12 December.

Safin Disputes Results Of 7 December Vote...
Relif Safin, former LUKoil vice president and Altai's representative in Russia's Federation Council, appealed to Bashkortostan's Supreme Court on 11 December asking it to cancel the results of the 7 December presidential elections, RosBalt reported the same day. Safin pointed to flagrant electoral violations reported by his monitors in about 100 voting districts. Safin said the court should prevent the USK from scheduling the date of second round of elections before his claim is heard. According to republican electoral legislation, Safin's complaint must be considered within five to 10 days.

...As Does Arinin
Aleksandr Arinin, the director on the Institute of Federalism and Civil Society who received only 3 percent of the vote in the presidential elections, told reporters on 11 December that the elections "were falsified...and soon the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] will publish a report" revealing the violations of election laws in Bashkortostan.

He said that the election results should be questioned and cancelled, "because practically all of the leaders in the electoral race exceeded the maximum possible expenditures for their election funds and bribed the voters." Arinin also noted that he will not give his support to either of the candidates in the second round.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi