Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, August 29

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Russian Press - Behind the Headlines - Sputnik International
Court allows Nemtsov to campaign against all candidates / Economics Ministry adjusts three year forecast, postpones growth until 2014 / Alexander Ankvab becomes Abkhazia’s third president

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
Court allows Nemtsov to campaign against all candidates
A magistrates court in Moscow has ruled that the detainment of opposition deputy Boris Nemtsov for encouraging people to vote against all during municipal elections in St. Petersburg was unlawful and that this kind of campaigning was not against the law. Nemtsov’s party views the decision as a call to action and as support for their “NaKh-NaKh: Vote against all” campaign.

The court’s decision means people can campaign against all candidates provided they finance the campaign with their own money.
Nemtsov, co-chairman of the People's Freedom Party (PARNAS), was detained several times for “illegal campaigning” ahead of the St. Petersburg elections in which ex-governor Valentina Matviyenko was running. The police claimed Nemtsov’s campaign should have been financed from Matviyenko’s election fund.

He said that during his second arrest the police did not stop the Nashists – members of the pro-Kremlin Nashi (Ours) youth movement – from throwing eggs and stones at his car. Nemtsov argued then that the Constitutional Court actually allowed such propaganda in 2005 provided it was paid with the individual’s money. The polled by Nezavisimaya Gazeta experts predicted that Nemtsov would win his case in court, and he has.
The media and opposition politicians said the St. Petersburg elections were among the most dishonest recently and questioned Matviyenko’s landslide victory.

The Central Election Commission’s arguments that the box “none of the above” had been removed from the ballots and that election campaigns must be paid from candidates’ funds are absurd, said Nemtsov’s lawyer Vadim Prokhorov.

“Clearly, no candidate would pay for such a campaign, but the removal of the said box from ballots does not mean the law prohibits such campaigning,” Prokhorov said. He said the Constitutional Court’s ruling clearly shows that people can campaign against all candidates provided they use personal funds. He said they would not demand sanctions against the police for Nemtsov’s unlawful detention.
Nemtsov said his sensational victory would have far-reaching consequences. “This is a slap in the face for Valentina Matviyenko and the scoundrels in the police,” he said. He said this is the second case he had won in court and there could be two reasons for that: the vertical of power has come unstuck or the judge did not dare contradict the Constitutional Court’s decision. Nemtsov added there will be a hearing involving the police officers who did not prevent the Nashists from attacking his car.

He said his party sees the court’s decision as a call to action. Boris Nemtsov and several other civil activists came up with the NaKh-NaKh concept to encourage people to vote against all by invalidating ballot papers. Nemtsov said the court’s decision will not save PARNAS activists from persecution. “Our initiative has caused hysterics in the Kremlin, judging by CEC deputy chairman Ivlev’s words. The court’s decision in our favor was surely a low blow for him.”

Economics Ministry adjusts three year forecast, postpones growth until 2014
Russia’s economy will not revive until 2014 and will grow 30 percent less than the global economy over the seven years following the 2008 financial crisis, Russia’s Economic Development Ministry said in its revised forecast through 2014.

The global economy is in for a long slowdown and Russia’s economy is unlikely to show rapid growth until 2014 either. The ministry has upgraded its oil price estimate while downgrading industrial growth and investment. Consumer demand will accelerate, albeit compensated by imports, Deputy Minister Andrei Klepach explained adding that this will also slow down economic growth.
Imports will slow down in 2013 due to the weakening ruble, which will depreciate to 30 per $1, and to 33.50 per $1 in 2014. However, capital inflow ($10-$20 billion in 2013-2014) will help the Central Bank preserve and augment its international reserves. This year, the ministry predicts an outflow of $30-$40 billion and zero in 2012.

Although the ministry expects the national economy to grow as fast as the global economy in 2011-2014, its total increment in 2008-2014 will be 30 percent smaller. Russia’s positions on global markets will weaken, but the ministry hopes for a rebound later on due to a package of modernization projects planned in Russia’s aerospace, carmaking and the food industry.
The ministry has drafted three scenarios as usual. The optimistic forecast envisages more expensive oil ($113/bbl in 2014) and faster GDP growth (4.5 percent in 2012). The conservative scenario includes a drastic slowdown (to 2.8-3 percent in 2012) with oil down to $80/bbl. This will happen if the global economy slows down significantly, but it does not imply a second wave of the crisis, Klepach reassured. The basic scenario is based on the oil price of $100/bbl.

The ministry has downgraded its inflation forecast for 2011 to 7 percent and upgraded it for 2014. Current statistics suggest it will be about 6.5 percent by yearend, Klepach said adding that, however, there is a risk that basic inflation (not including regulated prices, fuel and seasonal foodstuffs) will not slow down but accelerate.

He does not see any chances to balance the budget in the specified period: “The planned healthcare, education and infrastructure reforms require greater spending. I rely on our forecast and our understanding of the cost of these reforms.”
This forecast is a draft and can be changed after consultations with other agencies, Klepach said.
HSBC economist Alexander Morozov said he largely agreed with the official forecast: the global slowdown restricts industrial growth while increased consumer lending and lower savings ratio spur on the growth in retail and household consumption. However, he is not as optimistic about the overall economic growth and the projected capital inflow. His estimate is a surplus in Russia’s current account and a weakening of the ruble to 35-36/$1 by 2014.

Yevgeny Gavrilenkov from Troika Dialog pointed to some inconsistencies in the statistics used. He does not believe that the projected inflow of capital is realistic either.

Moskovsky Komsomolets

Alexander Ankvab becomes Abkhazia’s third president
Abkhazian voters have again upset the forecasts of seasoned analysts. Against all expectations, there was no run-off. Alexander Ankvab received 54.9 percent of the vote and the Central Election Commission acknowledged his victory. A person who has for twenty years been considered the most serious opponent to the first president, Vladislav Ardzinba, has come to power in Abkhazia.
Batal Tabagua, head of Abkhazia’s Central Election Commission, announced Ankvab’s complete and unquestionable victory. According to final results, Ankvab won 54.9 percent of the vote. Sergei Shamba came second with 21 percent, followed by Raul Khadzhimba with 19.83 percent. A total of 72 percent of the electorate took part in the polls.

The election was surprisingly quiet, although the turnout was unusually high, beating the 2009 figure. By late afternoon between 50 percent and 60 percent of the voters had already cast their ballots. 

It became clear from the start that Ankvab was leading with a tremendous margin and that there would be no second ballot.
For many Abkhazian reporters it came as a nasty shock. Many believed Sergei Shamba or Khadzhimba would make it to a run-off. But soon after the closing of polling stations Ankvab’s supporters began converging on his headquarters to celebrate. The number of foreign car makes showed the local “bosses” had acknowledged the winner.

Crowds also gathered outside the headquarters of the losing candidates. Sergei Shamba’s supporters seemed to be crushed by his defeat, which proved far worse than they expected.

Raul Khadzhimba asked the election commission to wait with the announcement of the returns until he and his backers could check them, but his headquarters was clearly not ready for drastic steps.
Many in Abkhazia are worried that Ankvab might establish a dictatorship. He said that he is going to concentrate power in his hands by scrapping all “surplus” posts.

“My experience shows that it is better to simplify many things,” he said. “I will try to abolish some organizations that slow up the implementation of decisions. Some administrative bodies are just unnecessary in such a small state as Abkhazia. These are, for example, the posts of deputy prime ministers. The position of prime minister can also be abolished, as well as that of vice-president.”
And still this is no dictatorship.

“There will be no dictatorships in Abkhazia,” Ankvab said. “Society rejects such a style of leadership. But neither does Abkhazian society want to have ineffective and incompetent leaders. Society wants order. And we will establish order through legal and constitutional measures.”
Abkhazia’s first president Ardzinba was a firm opponent of Ankvab, who was Ardzinba’s main political opponent and Abkhazia’s first opposition figure. Ever since Ardzinba signed a decree sacking Ankvab as interior minister in 1993, the man stubbornly worked towards his goal, using every means at hand.

Now his goal has been achieved. He had left Abkhazia almost as an “enemy of the people,” and he came back first as a prime minister and now as a president. He has taken Ardzinba’s place. He has won.

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