Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 27, 2002, EV

Nothing gratifies the Russian elite more than seeing its merits recognized at the international level. So when Central Electoral Commission Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov took office (for one year) as executive council chairman of the Association of Election Organizers from Central and Eastern European Countries, he did not miss the opportunity to demonstrate to his European counterparts the advantages of the Russian electoral system. Even President Vladimir Putin came to welcome the participants in the conference on international electoral standards that opened yesterday.

Over three days, the Association members will share experience and admit another two countries – Azerbaijan and Yugoslavia – into their ranks. They will also prepare a draft convention of electoral standards, rights, and liberties for the Council of Europe (COE). When completed and ratified by the COE member states, this convention may become the main codifying document for evaluating the degree of democracy at elections.

The Central Electoral Commission (CEC) views the conference as a continuation of the Russian initiative at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), proposed back in November 2000, on assessing the legislations of each OSCE member state according to globally recognized standards of electoral rights and liberties.

Addressing the conference, President Putin repeatedly emphasized Russia’s adherence to democratic electoral principles. Thus, he said many positive changes in Russia had taken place precisely because high-quality electoral regulation was becoming one of the main conditions of ensuring the rights and liberties of Russian citizens. He also specially noted the role of the CEC and legislators in improving Russia’s body of laws. The president did not fail to emphasize that for the sake of observing democratic principles, Russia was prepared to go to considerable expense; he referred to the CEC building as an example.

Overall, the Association members do not set themselves the objective of making all elections uniform, and the convention does not restrict national election traditions. It actually concerns everything else. At the same time, both the Russian president and CEC Chairman stressed the importance of developing new international standards. In the view of Alexander Veshnyakov, codifying those provisions in a “common European document would ensure definite protection of the member states from unfounded interference in quite reasonable areas of their domestic politics, connected with their distinctive national characteristics”. Otherwise, the assessment of elections in our countries “will be far from objectivity or legal standards”.


Izvestia, September 27, 2002, p. 2 EV

At yesterday’s meeting, the Cabinet approved a system of measures to support industrial exports. Thus, the government is trying to address two objectives: to stimulate industrial growth and reduce the raw materials component in Russian exports. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov says that if this is not done, Russia could face another economic crisis.

In the first eight months of 2002, economic growth was the equivalent of an annucal 4%, with 6% of the growth due to exports. Two-thirds of exports are raw materials. “If Russia had no natural resources, it would have a huge trade deficit, which inevitably leads to a deep financial crisis,” the prime minister said.

The Russian economy’s dependence on raw materials exports, according to Duma member Alexander Shokhin’s jest, has repeatedly “hit the government over the head with an oil barrel”. If oil prices are high, Russia records GDP growth, the federal budget receives extra revenue, and the government can pay off foreign debt ahead of schedule. When the oil prices decline – as in late 2001 – economic growth slows down and the budget comes under pressure from spending. The government drafts short-term, medium-term, and long-term scenarios based on forecasts for oil prices – but they are notoriously hard to predict. Therefore, the possible military operation in Iraq is a concern for the Russian authorities, not only for geopolitical considerations. Besides, such dependence on raw materials has a damaging impact on the state of Russian industry. Most investment goes into the fuel and energy sector. Industry, short of funding to update equipment and expand production, cannot compete with foreign producers who are moving into the Russian market.


Izvestia, September 27, 2002, p. 2 EV

Within the next few hours, the Georgian Prosecutor General’s Office will notify its Russian counterpart of its consent to the extradition of 13 Chechen guerrillas detained in early August not far from Itum-Kali. The Chechens will be extradited before President Eduard Shevardnadze and President Vladimir Putin meet at the CIS summit in Kishinev, Moldova – as a token of good will. Is this a political gesture, or routine procedure in handling wanted persons? “Both,” says Georgian presidential adviser Shalva Pichkhadze.

According to Pichkhadze, Russia has provided documentary evidence against these guerrillas, “so there is no pressure”. Pichkhadze says: “On the other hand, the extradition of the guerrillas, which Putin wanted so much, is Georgia’s invitation for Russia to cooperate and settle matters in a civilized way. This has to play its role before the meeting of the presidents, since there are other cases of terrorists being detained, like Igor Georgadze for example.”

Ichkerian General Representative Khzri Aldamov told us: “Georgia is a sovereign and democratic state, therefore those Chechens, if there is evidence against them, should stand trial in Georgia. Otherwise, it will seem like Russia still views Georgia as its province.”

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