Mar 14, 2007

Sketchtacular, Putin.

President Putin signed a decree on March 13 appointing five members to the Central Election Commission (TsIK) for a four-year term starting March 26 but did not include the current chairman, Aleksandr Veshnyakov. The new commission will oversee elections to the Duma in December and the 2008 presidential vote. Veshnyakov was first named to the TsIK in 1994 and served as its chairman since 1999. Even the state-run daily newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" of March 14 called the latest omission of Veshnyakov a "big surprise." But in July 2006, he broke with apparent Kremlin policy by calling for direct elections to the Federation Council. He also attracted attention by saying that regional governors should be elected and not appointed, and criticized legislation that expands "pretexts for [the authorities] to disqualify candidates they find inconvenient." In September, Veshnyakov warned that Russia is in danger of becoming a one-party state and drew explicit comparisons with the Soviet Union. Aleksei Makarkin of the Center for Political Technologies told RFE/RL's Russian Service on March 13 that the Kremlin probably wants a TsIK chairman who is less ambitious than Veshnyakov and more clearly dependent on Kremlin patronage in the run-up to the parliamentary and presidential votes.

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