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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 27, 2003

Central Electoral Commission tried to Reconcile Political Rivals
Preparation of an agreement of clean elections was transformed into a spat between political leaders.

By Olga Tropkina

The drafting of a public accord entitled "Elections 2003", which was initiated yesterday by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) and involved the leaders of the major political parties, ran the risk of resulting in a scandal. The accord, which is supposed to help make elections transparent and fair, is to be signed in August. Yesterday the leaders of political parties discussed draft documents and nominated their candidates to the organisational committee.

CEC Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov and Director of the Free Elections Foundation Andrei Przhezdomsky, who chaired the meeting, did their best to keep the party leaders from exchanging accusations that threatened to cause offence, but failed. Party leaders did not try to conceal their scepticism toward the proposal of the CEC.

According to the Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party has always been the victim of dirty election campaign tactics and does not expect things to improve this year, no matter what accords participants in the elections would sign ahead of the election campaign.

The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky stated once that "now he will spoil the mood to the initiators of such an action", and said that "werewolves" (Ed. Such a nick-name was given by the journalists to the recent arrest of high interior minister officials on corruption charge) are to be found not only in the Interior Ministry, but also sit in all the electoral commissions. The leader of the LDPR said he "did not doubt " that even the Central Electoral commission was established proceeding from an "agreement between a number of factions." In his view free and fair elections are out of the question, when postmen open post-cards sent to the LDPR with congratulations on Victory Day (May 9) and write "foul things" in them.

Sergei Mitrokhin who was representing the Yabloko Party expressed concern about the latest election laws proposed by the CEC. He also drew Alexander Veshnyakov's attention to the fact the police have recently been resolving political tasks in a broader number of cases. According to Mitrokhin, police quite often get registered in a number of passport issuing offices and vote for "the homeless and drug-takers". He also noted that Yabloko would certainly sign the accord, but its honest implementation by "sheep and wolves" is impossible. "Rather by wolves and bears," said Deputy Speaker of the Duma Artur Chilingarov amending Mitrokhin's metaphor.

The Union of Right-Wing Forces leader Boris Nemtsov stated that his party had no illusions regarding the fairness of the forthcoming elections. He stated that it was necessary to monitor strictly the financing of political parties. Nemtsov observed that political organisations have been privatised by financial and industrial groups on a large scale. Nemtsov could not resist adding some criticism of the United Russia party. He called the fight against "werewolves" [in the Interior Ministry] a PR action held by the United Russia and also expressed his resentment that Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov had been giving out party membership cards and receiving the party's supporters during work hours.

Head of the General Council of United Russia Valery Bogomolov was quite abashed by the hail of critical remarks on his party. But he replied amicably that "one cannot start a good business with bad words", after which he offered to his opponents to live in peace. The majority of the political leaders followed his advice to be out of harm's way and withdrew themselves hastily from the conference hall.


See also:

State Duma Elections 2003

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 27, 2003

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