Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 111

Voters inBashkortostan will go to the polls on June 14 to elect the president oftheir republic. The event is proving controversial because the localelectoral authorities have formally approved the candidacies of only two offive aspiring individuals. One of the two is the incumbent president,Murtaza Rakhimov. The other is the republic’s Forestry Minister, RifKazakkulov. Three other hopefuls all had their applications for registrationrejected on the grounds that the signatures gathered by their supporterscontained forgeries. One–State Duma deputy Aleksandr Arinin–managed thisweek to get his rejection overturned, Russia’s Supreme Court ordering onJune 3 that his name be added to the ballot papers. How this will beaccomplished is unclear, in view of the ballot slips having been printedlong ago and the proxy voting already underway. (Itar-Tass, June 4) Arinin,a champion of the now unfashionable cause of Bashkir-Russian unity, is notin any case considered a strong runner. The other two unsuccessfulcandidates, both of whom are old Rakhimov rivals, were seen as strongcandidates–former republic Prime Minister Marat Mirgazyamov and well-knownbanker Rafis Kadyrov. They accuse Rakhimov of running Bashkortostan as apocket fiefdom, giving jobs only to his Bashkir cronies and exploiting therepublic’s oil resources for private gain. They accuse Kazakkulov of being astooge put up merely to ensure that, in line with Russian law, Rakhimov doesnot run unopposed. (Kommersant-Daily, May 12; Izvestia, May 14 and June 2)

The republic has also run foul of Russia’s State Duma, which has complainedabout a republic law that requires candidates for president to speak theBashkir language (though it does not stipulate how well the language must bespoken). According to the Duma, this violates the Russian constitution,especially since only about 20 percent of the republic’s population speakBashkir.

Bashkortostan’s parliament has so far refused to back down, however, and thelaw remains on the books. Other republics, including neighboring Tatarstan,have similar legislation.