Izvestia, October 25, 2002, p. 4

The Duma gave the first reading to the new version of the law “On presidential elections in the Russian Federation” yesterday. The law notably alters the rules for nominating presidential candidates, and expands the list of information about income and assets which must be disclosed. These rules will first be tested in practice from December 2003.

First of all, the new version gives the green light to party nominees. If a party is represented in the parliament, any presidential candidate it nominates will not have to collect signatures. However, parties and blocs not represented in the parliament will have to collect at least 2 million voter signatures in order to nominate a candidate.

Self-nomination in a presidential election will be possible, but very difficult for an individual. The candidate will have to gather an initiative group of at least 500 people (only 100 required at present), and collect 2 million signatures (1 million at present).

The law is very specific in its provisions concerning the “money component” during presidential elections. Thus, campaign spending is restricted to 150 million rubles per candidate. This sum makes political consultants smile.

“Spending $5 million on a presidential election in such a large country is ridiculous. Real spending is much higher. Candidates for mayor of New York spent $12-40 million,” one consultant told us.

Central Electoral Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov believes the campaign spending limit may be raised by the second reading, but he strongly objects to abolishing restrictions.

Veshnyakov thinks the new law will come into force in spring 2003, whereas the presidential election campaign will be launched on December 10, 2003. The election itself is scheduled for March 14, 2004.


Izvestia, October 25, 2002, p. 6

October 29 is the deadline in a tender for building a nuclear power plant in Finland. A provisional list of tender participants is known already. Apart from an alliance of Russian companies United Heavy Machinery (OMZ) and Power Machines (SM), it is most likely to include General Electric (GE) from the United States and Alston from Europe. There will be something to fight for in Finland. The approximate value of the project is $1 billion. The Russians will have a difficult time. The foreigners will be able to provide bank guarantees for their projects, while the Russian companies will mainly rely on the low cost of their services and minimal transportation costs owing to their proximity to Finland.

Most experts agree that the chances of the Russian companies winning the tender are slim. Vladimir Severinov, head of the forecasting and development department chief at Rosenergoatom, told us that the Europeans still have better prospects. On the other hand, they may place part of the orders with Russian enterprises. For example, the Izhora Plant can count on a contract for a reactor vessel. Thus, the interests of the Russian companies may be taken into account even in the event that they fail to win the tender.

The Russian companies cannot rely on “equal terms” with the foreign companies, whose assets and potential contract portfolios are much greater. SM Director General Yevgeny Yakovlev notes that it’s impossible to speak to Western counterparts in the same language. The Russian nuclear engineers depend heavily on export contracts. The share of domestic contracts in their activities is usually under 10%. Contracts in Russia are mainly linked to repairing and modernizing existing power plants, not building new ones. However, the plans of the Nuclear Energy Ministry inspire some optimism among Russian companies. The ministry would like to raise the share of its contribution to Russia’s energy consumption from the present 12-15% to 25%.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 25, 2002, EV

The Duma Council convened before the plenary session of the Duma. After the Council meeting, almost all faction leaders called on their colleagues not to make any hasty judgements or dramatic political declarations.

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev also took this tone in his opening speech at the plenary session. He said that the law enforcement agencies ought to heed the main call of the Duma: the hostages must survive. Seleznev said it is important for the Duma members themselves to “keep a cool head”.

As a result of this cautious approach, obviously recommended from above, the Duma passed a declaration on the situation arising from a large group of people being taken hostage by terrorists in central Moscow. However, the resolution essentially says nothing about the “situation”. The lower house simply expresses its outrage, emphasizing that the undoubted priority is to safeguard the lives and health of the hostages. It draws the attention of state agencies and the media to this priority. The Duma calls on the terrorists to see reason and release innocent people; it calls on residents of Moscow not to panic or give in to feelings of ethnic hatred. Moreover, the resolution expresses the hope that the special services will prove to be sufficiently skilled, and television journalists will be cautious enough not to broadcast information which has not been verified.