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Cablegate: New Cec Chair Churov

VZCZCXRO8418
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1367/01 0880642
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290642Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8726
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3918
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2321
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2011

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001367

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PINR RS
SUBJECT: NEW CEC CHAIR CHUROV


MOSCOW 00001367 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On March 27, the Central Election
Commission (CEC) elected Vladimir Churov as its new chairman.
A physicist and St. Petersburg native, with long-standing
ties to Putin, Churov announced that he would implement
electoral law, not debate it. Duma members and civil society
representatives predict a more loyal and lower profile
chairman. Besides Churov, the new CEC leadership includes
United Russia and Just Russia representation in an apparent
attempt to balance the two Kremlin parties' interests. An
important mid-April regional election provides the first
opportunity for Churov to set the tone for his chairmanship.
End summary.

----------------
The New CEC Team
----------------

2. (SBU) In a 13-2 secret ballot, Duma Deputy Vladimir
Churov was elected the Central Election Commission's (CEC)
new chairman. Churov was elected to the State Duma in 2003
on the LDPR ticket and has been part of the LDPR faction,
although he identifies himself as not being a member of any
party. He hails from St. Petersburg and was educated as a
physicist. From 1992-1998, Churov worked for Putin on the
Commission for External Relations in Mayor Anatoliy Sobchak's
office. He has no legal background, but did serve as an OSCE
election observer in Kyrgyzstan.

3. (SBU) In addition to Churov, the CEC leadership troika
includes Stanislav Vavilov as the new Deputy Chairman and
Nikolay Konkin as the new Secretary. Vavilov is a
Presidential Administration representative and United Russia
member, who previously served on the Federation Council,
where he worked on the Committee for Law and Judicial Issues.
Konkin, who served on the previous CEC, is a member of Just
Russia and is a Federation Council representative. Golos'
Liliya Shibanova speculated that the new team reflected a
desire to balance United Russia and Just Russia's influence
on elections.

4. (SBU) According to press reports, Churov's election was
seamless, only CEC advisory member and KPRF lawyer Vadim
Soloviev posed any questions, asking Churov whether he agreed
with LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's more controversial
statements or supported the use of "steam engine" candidates
on party lists. (NOTE: This refers to the practice whereby
parties put well-known members or celebrities at the head of
the list, even though they would not serve if elected.)

----------------------------
Expected To Be Self-Effacing
----------------------------

5. (SBU) In his first remarks as Chairman, Churov announced
that he saw himself as an implementer of election law, not a
commentator. Duma contacts have highlighted a family
connection, with Churov's father or uncle putatively having
worked with Putin's father. These Duma members speculate
that Churov will be a loyal and reliable CEC Chairman, who
understands his "proper role" as part of the executive branch
and will refrain from public dissent.

6. (SBU) Civil society contacts, keying off of Churov's
comments, are pessimistic that the new CEC Chairman will
continue former CEC Chairman Veshnyakov's efforts to use the
Commission as a bully pulpit against additional electoral
reforms that narrow the ability of opposition political
parties to compete. Most emphasized his personal ties to
Putin, and expect that Churov will be loyal to the Kremlin,
less public, and will want to keep outsiders out of Russia's
affairs. Not all observers, however, are concerned. Former
CEC Chairman Aleksandr Ivanchenko (1995-1999) told reporters
that since the CEC was becoming a body tasked with simply
carrying out elections, rather than the more political role
it had held during Russia's transition to democracy, a
technocratic chairman would suffice to count the ballots.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Distancing himself from former CEC Chairman
Aleksandr Veshnyakov's perceived mistake of being too
outspoken in opposing changes to the election law, Churov has
signaled that he will lower the Chairman's profile. With the
Krasnoyarsk regional election scheduled for April 15, we
will soon get our first impressions regarding the tone Churov
intends to set. Political commentators dub Krasnoyarsk

MOSCOW 00001367 002.2 OF 002


Russia's "New Hampshire," since it is considered to be a
microcosm of the country and indicator of political
sentiment. It promises to be an important race for Churov to
demonstrate how he intends to arbitrate electoral disputes.
RUSSELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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