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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 17, 2002

17 October 2002
Republican Government Wins Property Tussle With Kazan
Tatarstan's Constitutional Court upheld a republican cabinet challenge to a Kazan City Council property grab, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 October, citing information from a court source on 14 October. City officials sought to declare all buildings and other property not yet privatized in the capital municipal property. The Tatar Cabinet of Ministers argued that all such real estate in the republic is owned by the state and thus should be administered with government approval. The court concluded that the government has greater authority than the City Council and thus may authorize the use of state property by city officials. In a 2 October session, the Tatarstan State Council failed to find agreement on the issue.

Federal Transport Officials Visit Tatarstan
A delegation of Russian Transport Ministry officials led by Deputy Minister Anatolii Nasonov and Russian Traffic Police (GIBDD) chief Vladimir Fedorov arrived in Tatarstan on 16 October to join an interregional conference on traffic safety to be held in Chally the following day, RFE/RL�s Kazan bureau reported. During their first day in Kazan, Nasonov and Fedorov met Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov to discuss road safety and infrastructure, which faces common problems in Tatarstan and across Russia -- low capacity and the continued use of older vehicles. Minnikhanov told the visitors that his republic has adopted a program to curb traffic accidents, which injure roughly 700 people in Tatarstan every year.

Tatarstan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport Vladimir Shvetsov told the Russian officials at the same meeting that his ministry is preparing to introduce a satellite-operated traffic-control system to fight traffic jams in the republic�s capital.

On 17 October, the federal delegation left for Chally to join an interregional conference of traffic-safety officials and inspect automaker KamAZ's facilities. The Moscow-based officials were expected to join a 17 October ceremony marking the opening of a 13-kilometer bridge over the Kama River at Saeskan Tau-Murzikha, which is to connect east and western Tatarstan.

Police Arrest Suspect In Orthodox Priest's Murder
Tatarstan police have detained a suspect in the murder of 85-year-old Orthodox priest Ilya Efimov in the village of Tyurnyasevo, reported on 16 October, citing the Interior Ministry�s press service (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 October 2002). Authorities said the suspect has a criminal record and stressed that they believe the murder had no religious connection.

Tatneft Experts To Begin Work In Iraq
Oil concern Tatneft has dispatched a second group of 20 oil-mining experts for work in Iraq, Solid-Info reported on 15 October. Six experts have already been sent to Iraq, and the entire brigade will reportedly install 45 oil wells, according to a contract between Russian company Zarubezhneft and the Iraqi Northern Oil Company.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Constitutional Body Adopts New Draft Constitution
The Bashkir Constitutional Assembly passed on 16 October a new draft constitution, the second in the past two weeks, that abolishes the post of the president in the republic and stipulates the establishment of a parliamentary republic (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8, 11, 14, 15, and 16 October 2002), RosBalt and other news agencies reported. According to the draft, presidential powers will be shared between the government and the legislature. The government will obtain the powers of appointing government members, signing laws, resolutions, and a decree on pre-term dissolution of the parliament.

The State Assembly will also receive the powers of pre-term dissolution of the parliament by a resolution of the presidium. It is planned to create a presidium of the State Assembly, which will be a permanently working body. The length of a term in the legislature will likely be increased from four to five years. It is proposed to raise the status of the parliament speaker who will represent the republic in relations with the Russian president, the Federation Council, the State Duma, and the Russian government. The head of the government will be elected for a four-year term and cannot serve for more than two terms, while terms of the head of the parliament are not limited. According to the new draft constitution, an audit chamber is to be established in the republic in place of the currently working State Supervisory Committee, RosBalt reported on 16 October.

Rakhimov To Serve Out Presidential Term...
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov will resign from the post of president in June 2003, on the day his current term expires, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 16 October. Rakhimov told the agency on 16 October that he "will pass powers to the State Assembly and the Bashkir government, which will be established in the course of the reform of the state power system [switching from a presidential to a parliamentary system]." Rakhimov said he has not yet considered whether he will seek election to the State Assembly, saying the republic and he face more important tasks in the transition from a presidential to a parliamentary republic.

Rakhimov said that in late March 2003 State Assembly elections will be held and deputies will then elect the head of the parliament. Due to the abolishment of the post of president in June, absolute power will temporarily pass to the parliament, while the government will act within the framework of its current powers. In December 2003, after the head of the government is elected by popular vote and forms the cabinet of ministers, a part of the president's powers and additional rights that will be provided by the Bashkir Constitution will pass to the highest executive body, Rakhimov said.

...As Kremlin Backs His Initiatives...
Rakhimov told the Constitutional Assembly meeting on 16 October that Russian presidential administration officials expressed their interest in the idea of changing the system of government in Bashkortostan and its switching to a parliamentary republic, Bashinform reported. Rakhimov said he discussed the issue by phone with presidential Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov on 14 October. He said he informed him that "everything we do is within our powers and in no way contradicts federal law and received complete approval of our initiatives."

Meanwhile, the presidential representation to the Volga Federal District plans to pass a legal expert review of Bashkortostan's new initiatives, "Vedomosti" daily reported on 17 October.

...While Analysts Say Reform Provides Rakhimov With Power For Life
Center of Political Technology Director Igor Bunin labeled the construction of power proposed in the new draft Bashkir Constitution as "an oligarchic republic that has nothing in common with a parliamentary republic," "Vedomosti" daily reported on 17 October. The head of the Merkator analytic group, Dmitrii Oreshkin, told "Vedomosti" that the republic's leadership found an "elegant method" to evade all laws, since "it is the right of republics to decide on a local system of power, while the law on main guarantees for electoral rights has been formally observed as parliament is elected by popular vote." Oreshkin said he believes that the reform is a way to legitimize Rakhimov's ruling for life, adding that Moscow won't hinder Rakhimov, since "if the center tries to change the ruling clan, there will be high risk of sabotage among bureaucrats."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova