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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 16, 2003

16 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.

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.

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.

Shaimiev Says Election Results Show Trust In Putin...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told a press conference on 8 December that in Tatarstan the Kremlin-backed Unified Russia party received the highest percentage of votes throughout Russia in the 7 December State Duma elections. Shaimiev said the election results showed that the population trusted the republican authorities. The regional list of the party was headed by State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, while the Tatar president was on Unified Russia's federal list. But most importantly, Shaimiev continued, the results show that people trust the Russian president, who openly backed the party during the campaign. "The party's advent to power, supported by the president of the country, will positively influence the investment the attractiveness of many companies will grow and their share price will increase," he said. Primary importance should be assigned to speeding up political as well as economic reforms, Shaimiev added.

...Comments On Rightist Parties' Defeat...
Shaimiev also expressed "sincere regret" that the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) did not collect enough votes to be represented in the Duma. "Rightist forces are to be represented in a society where democratic reforms are under way, although they are unable to become leaders...and obtain a majority in elections," Shaimiev said, adding, "this is impossible under the current state of our society and degree of economic development." Shaimiev also said the rightists should now conduct a serious analysis of their defeat. He added, "four years will very soon pass and I would like to see their return." He commented that leaders of rightist parties, with the exclusion of SPS candidate Anatolii Chubais, are "to some extent idealists" and added that, "it would be good if 5 percent of voters ready to support that party existed in society." He said, "SPS lacks organizers, and this could be seen in Tatarstan" where the rightist forces gathered over 5 percent in the previous elections.

...And Unexpected Success Of Motherland
Shaimiev said the fact that the Motherland National-Patriotic Union bloc collected enough votes to be represented in the State Duma was "quite unexpected for everybody," adding that, "this is the result of the split within the Communist Party." The program aims of Motherland National-Patriotic Union leader Sergei Glazev are not as radical as those of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, so they attracted part of the electorate who were disappointed in the Communist Party and its leadership, Shaimiev said. Shaimiev predicted that "the union of [Duma deputy Sergei] Glazev and [Duma deputy Dmitrii] Rogozin will not last forever. I think they are hardly compatible with each other. They should either free themselves from the ideology of national-socialism or set to reforms and move closer to the centrist position."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

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.

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 Baidavletov.

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.

Prosecutors Release Suspect In Ufa Bombings
Bashkortostan's Prosecutors Office released Vyacheslav Senin, who had been charged with setting a booby trap at the gate of Aleksandr Veremeenko's residence in May 2003, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 10 December. However, the prosecutors have not lifted the charges against Senin, who worked as Veremeenko's bodyguard before his arrest on 21 November. Right after the arrest, Interior Minister Rafael Divaev claimed that Senin could possibly be related to the 27 September bombing attempt and the 5 November bombing in the Bashkir capital Ufa but these allegations were not confirmed by the prosecutors.

Aleksandr Veremeenko, formerly the head of Gazprom's branch in Bashkortostan, Bashtransgas, is the brother of Sergei Veremeenko, currently running for president in the republic.

According to Bashkir state media, Senin installed the booby trap at his employer's house at the latter's request, in order to draw and mislead the public with a fake assassination attempt.

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.'"

...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.

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.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chavash President Might Run In Russian Presidential Race...
The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) appealed on 15 December to Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov to run as a candidate in the upcoming Russian presidential elections, reported the same day, citing an unidentified source close to SPS leaders. Fedorov told the news agency the same day that, "I have never even thought about it." Fedorov was the Russian justice minister in 1990-1993. In December 1993, he was elected as Chavash president and was re-elected in December 1997 and in December 2001.

...And Says Communist Defeat His Major Victory
Commenting on the results of the 7 December State Duma elections, Fedorov said on 11 December that the "biggest victory of the decade...was the defeat of the Communists in Chavashia." Fedorov said, "the defeat of the Communists is a historical defeat of their immoral criminal rule of 70 years. They have not finally acknowledged and have not confessed...and dispute whether their regime killed 5 million or 10 million [people]." Fedorov explained the appearance of the Motherland bloc on the political scene by its historical mission to transform the Russian Soviet mentality and "to move the Communist electorate closer toward more civilized notions of reality." He said he does not fear growth of radical leftist or patriotic-leftist forces in the bloc. In the 7 December State Duma elections in Chavashia, the Communist Party came in second with 17.39 percent of the vote following Unified Russia with 38 percent.

Nizhnii National Bolsheviks Protest Party's Blocked Registration
Eight members of the National Bolshevik Party staged a protest in Nizhnii Novgorod on 15 December, during which they chained themselves with handcuffs to a door of the Justice Ministry's Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Directorate, RosBalt reported the same day. The news agency cited the party's press service as saying that the action was held in response to the fifth refusal to register the party as a nationwide political party. After the protesters refused to leave, they were unchained and detained by police.

Mansii Development Program Approved In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The Sverdlovsk Oblast government adopted on 15 December a program on the socioeconomic development of the Mansiis, an indigenous people to the region, designed to run through 2011, reported on 10 December. The document was developed by the administration of the Ivdel municipality, where 141 Mansii people live. The program provides measures aimed at organizing regular medical examinations, vaccinations, purchases of snow tractors and instruments for the handicraft industry, and fuel supplies. The program costs 10 million rubles ($340,000), 66 percent of which will be paid by the federal budget. No similar legislation concerning the Mansiis already exists. Money earmarked for their development has, in the past, been siphoned off by local officials. The Mansii population is rapidly shrinking and alcoholism, tuberculosis, and hepatitis are rife. The life expectancy of the average Mansii person is 37 years and 17 percent of the population are illiterate.

Tyumen Oblast Parliament Speaker Opposes Idea Of Oblast-Okrug Merger...
Tyumen Oblast Duma Chairman Sergei Korepanov, who was elected to the oblast parliament from the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, has sharply criticized the plans of the Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin to merge the oblast with the Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs, "Vremya novostei" reported on 16 December. The autonomous okrugs are located within the Tyumen Oblast, but have the status of federal subjects. Korepanov's comments came on the eve of a meeting of the trilateral commission on developing the proposed merger. Korepanov said that the okrugs were unlikely to back the idea and that it would result in a growth of bureaucracy.

...As Yamal-Nenets Governor Critical Of Budgetary Reform
Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov on 10 December expressed his sharp "disagreement with the trend of super-centralization of budget revenues" promoted by the federal government, specifically its proposal to deprive the okrug of its revenues from the tax on the extraction of natural gas, reported the same day. Neelov said that such a policy aimed at sapping the revenues of more developed regions to distribute among poorer regions, will result in less donor regions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova