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Friday, March 16, 2007

Putin's Political Axe Falls Yet Again

The Beeb reports, via it's media monitoring service, on yet another nail in the coffin of democracy in Russia:

Russian papers say that Alexander Veshnyakov has been removed from the post of head of the Central Electoral Commission because of his criticism of the behaviour of pro-Kremlin parties and opposition to amendments to electoral legislation. Pro-government papers appear to be silent on the issue.

Madina Shavlokhova in Gazeta

Why was Veshnyakov rejected by the president, even though he has expressed his wish to stay for a further, third term on several occasions? His criticism of changes to electoral legislation probably played a role in this. For example, he publicly opposed the abolition of the 'against all' option on the ballot paper and the removal of the minimum turnout requirement. He also criticized the use of vote-grabbing methods, which the United Russians actively resorted to...

Moskovskiy Komsomolets

At the State Duma, for example, the news of Veshnyakov's dismissal had the effect of an exploding bomb... Everybody had been almost certain that he would keep his post... On the one hand, the head of the Central Electoral Commission is only a technician. On the other hand, he is potentially a very dangerous figure for the authorities. After all, if he were suddenly to rear up and say how elections really should be held, the scandal would be enormous. All chairmen of the CEC - Ryabov, Ivanchenko and, finally, Veshnyakov - have loyally served the highest authority. However, eventually, small 'flaws' were found in the behaviour of Ryabov and Ivanchenko, which gave reason to believe that, in certain circumstances, they might well start playing their own game. Now the same fate has befallen Veshnyakov...

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Throughout his years at the helm, Mr Veshnyakov has, with Calvinist asceticism, stripped away all the 'excesses' and liberties of electoral legislation drawn up during the Yeltsin period... Veshnyakov only put a foot wrong when, obeying common sense, logic and his own knowledge, he opposed amendments which abolished the 'against all' option and the turnout threshold... he certainly knew what he was letting himself in for when he engaged in public polemics with the initiators of the amendment. So, all credit to him...

Irina Nagornykh in Kommersant

The leaders of the 'No1 party of power'... may have convinced the president that, with the State Duma and presidential elections approaching, the centre does not have sufficient control over the system of electoral commissions, and may have lobbied for Alexander Veshnyakov's dismissal... opposition figures believe Veshnyakov's dismissal is linked to changes to the electoral system, with the reduced role of elections and the transformation of the Commission into an ineffectual body ready to approve any unlawful decision by the Kremlin... The first sign that observance of the letter of the law is no longer relevant, came with amendments to the law 'On guarantees'..., in accordance with which a member of the Commission no longer has to have legal qualifications

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