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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 16, 2003

16 December 2003
Parliament Hears Final Report On Duma Elections
During the 15 December session of the Tatar State Council, Tatar Central Election Commission (USK) chairman Anatolii Fomin presented a report about the 7 December elections for the Russian State Duma, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Despite a number of complaints filed by some of the 70 candidates who sought election to five State Duma seats, Fomin said that the vote proceeded in a "calm atmosphere" and with "lawful support of the state bodies," which is explained by the high level of "political culture" of Tatarstan's people. According to the USK chairman, 2.8 million Tatar residents, representing 77.13 percent of voters turned out to vote. The Kremlin-backed Unified Russia party won 59.53 percent of the vote, the Communist Party won 8.91 percent, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 6.1 percent, while 4.4 percent of people voted "against all."

Shaimiev Emphasizes Failure Of Rightist Parties To Cooperate During Duma Campaign
At the same session of parliament, Aleksandr Shtanin, a State Council deputy representing the republic's Equality and Legality movement, said that during the 7 December vote republican authorities misrepresented the votes cast in support of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko, which "actually won more votes" than the officially reported figures, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev immediately responded to that statement by saying that the rightist parties did not gather the necessary 5 percent needed to enter the Russian Duma, because they failed to join forces. "You shouldn't have waited for someone to take your hand and lead you to Duma," Shaimiev emphasized.

State Council Approves Bill On Promoting Use Of Tatar Language...
In the second reading, the Tatar State Council on 15 December approved draft amendments to the law on the republic's state and secondary languages and to the state program on the preservation and development of these languages in 2004-2013, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. According to the approved amendments, those state officials who use both state languages of Tatarstan -- Tatar and Russian -- in their jobs will be offered a 15 percent bonus to their monthly salary. The bill reportedly won unanimous support among deputies and is to be proposed for a final reading in January 2004.

...Obliges State Bodies To Get On The Web
According to the law on information resources and information technologies development, passed by the State Council on 15 December, republican government bodies will be obliged to publish regularly information on their activities on the Internet, along with legal documents related to their work and information on citizens' rights.

Fitch Upgrades Tatneft Rating
The Fitch international rating agency upgraded Tatneft oil company's short-term commitment rating from B- to B with a stable forecast, reported on 15 December. The rating hike is explained by "Russia's and Tatarstan's improving economic and financial situation of the last two years and changes in the company's management toward a vertically integrated structure," reported.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Shake-Up In Bashkir Prosecutor's Office
Bashkir Prosecutor Florid Baikov resigned while his first deputy, Vladimir Korostelev, was dismissed, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported on 15 December. An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day that Baikov had a heart attack and was hospitalized. "Kommersant-Daily" on 16 December quoted acting Bashkir President Rafael Baidavletov as saying that Baikov submitted his resignation and Korostelev was dismissed for "making mistakes" and "not managing to ensure law and order during the election campaign."

The daily also quoted an unidentified source in the Bashkir prosecutor's office as saying that the shake-up was linked to the recent incident when fake electoral ballots were found in the Ufa World of Print printing house controlled by the Bashkir presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 5 December 2003). Following the incident, Korostelev told the press that the printing of counterfeit ballots was ordered by presidential administration head Radii Khebirov. Baikov, however, immediately rejected Korostelev's statement as "premature" and "rash."

Several days after the case was filed, the seized ballots were sent to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, while the republican prosecutor's office stopped commenting on the investigation, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. According to the paper, the investigation was stopped after senior officials, including Khebirov, refused to come to the prosecutor's office. Instead, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office began a large-scale investigation of the Bashkir prosecutor's office. The daily also quoted members of the election staff of Bashkir presidential candidate Relif Safin as saying, prosecutors were "victims for the sake of democracy" as they spread "untimely" information that harmed the image of the Bashkir president. The daily speculated that the prosecutors' slip became especially clear after Moscow began openly campaigning for Rakhimov's re-election in the second round.

Baikov has headed the prosecutor's office since May 2002. Deputy Prosecutor Ramil Isquzhin was named acting prosecutor.

Unified Russia In Bashkortostan Promises Rakhimov's Decisive Victory
The chairman of the Political Council of Unified Russia's Bashkir branch, Mansur Eyupov, told a party conference in Ufa on 15 December that the branch plans to secure a "convincing victory" for incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov in the second round of the Bashkir presidential elections on 21 December, RosBalt reported the same day. Eyupov said Unified Russia's Bashkir organization failed to secure the "most important task" --Rakhimov's re-election in the first round. Eyupov sharply criticized the work of some regional subdivisions of the party in the republic and called for looking into some allies of Unified Russia that promoted opposition candidates.

Eyupov said the Bashkir elections were "really democratic, alternative, and tense." He labeled as "pushy," "impudent," and "cynical" observers who, he said, "came in large numbers" from different regions "by special flights" and "terrorized" polling districts. He also said the opposition actively used dirty election techniques and was paid by "latter-day nouveau riches."

Newly Elected Deputies Campaign For Rakhimov
State Duma deputies elected from Bashkortostan's single-mandate districts appealed on 15 December to the public to vote for "Bashkortostan's devoted patriot," Rakhimov, in the second round of the presidential elections on 21 December, Bashinform reported the same day. In the appeal passed at the Unified Russia conference in Ufa, the deputies praised the positive changes in the republic during Rakhimov's rule, saying that under him, cities and streets were beautified, villages were connected to gas pipelines, health resorts developed, roads constructed, schools and universities received modern equipment, and environmental and housing issues were resolved. They called on Bashkortostan's people "to unite like the people of Russia united in the periods of common danger."

Number Of Hunger Strikers Growing
The number of participants in a hunger strike that began in Bashkortostan on 13 December to protest the results of the 7 December Bashkir presidential elections has reached 100 people (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 December 2003), Interfax and RosBalt reported on 15 December. People in Tuimazy, Salawat, Sibai, Neftekama, Oktyabrskii, Ufa Raion, Mishkino, and Bulgakovo joined the hunger strike. Participants, many of them supporters of candidate Relif Safin, denied reports that the protest, which is being held in Safin's campaign office, was initiated or supported by campaign staffs of either candidate Sergei Veremeenko or Safin.

Many of the strikers were reportedly election observers and personally witnessed violations. The hunger strikers are being examined every day by medical workers. Some of them required medical aid. Safin election-campaign chief Rim Gabdullin said staff employees informed the Ufa Ordzhonikidze Raion prosecutor's office about the action. The protesters appealed to Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, and President Vladimir Putin to annul the results of the presidential elections in Bashkortostan.

Safin, who came in third in the elections with 23 percent, just 2.35 percentage points less than Rakhimov's rival in the second round, Veremeenko, has appealed against the results in the Bashkir Supreme Court. Safin contested voting results in 147 polling districts and claimed he was denied some 100,000 votes, the number he needs to take part in the second round. Safin's lawsuit was supported by another candidate, Aleksandr Arinin, who finished with less than 5 percent. According to "Novaya gazeta" on 15 December, citing Ufa's independent New Television Channel, some 13 percent of the ballots were fake.

Rakhimov's Son Says He Has No Presidential Ambitions
In an interview with the State Television and Radio Company Bashkortostan on 15 December, Bashkir President Rakhimov's son Ural said he has no presidential ambitions. Ural Rakhimov said he will not run in the next presidential campaign, adding, "I am very satisfied with the work I do." Currently Ural Rakhimov is chairman of Bashkirenergo and is a Bashkir State Assembly deputy. Some opposition members have speculated in the past that Murtaza Rakhimov seeks to transfer power to his son Ural (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 December 2003).

USK Determines Election Schedule
Televised debates between presidential candidates Murtaza Rakhimov and Sergei Veremeenko will be held on 18 December and will last for 15 minutes, the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) announced on 15 December, RosBalt reported the same day. A radio debates will take place on 16 December. It is still unclear if the debates will be recorded in advance. The candidates were also distributed free space in republican newspapers on 17 and 18 December. The campaign will end on 19 December. Prior to the first round on 7 December, all candidates' speeches were previously recorded, while one of candidates, Relif Safin, was refused free air time on state television and radio.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova