07MOSCOW1120, OTHER SHOE DROPS: VESHNYAKOV OUT OF CEC

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW1120 2007-03-15 11:59 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO6202
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #1120/01 0741159
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 151159Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8278
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001120 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM RS
SUBJECT: OTHER SHOE DROPS: VESHNYAKOV OUT OF CEC 
 
REF: A. (A) 06 MOSCOW 12498 
 
     B. (B) MOSCOW 870 
 
Classified By: DCM Daniel A. Russell for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
 1. (C)  Summary:  Many commentators attribute President 
Putin's failure to re-appoint Central Election Commission 
(CEC) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov to his public criticism 
of election law changes that were initiated by the 
Kremlin-backed party United Russia.  Although many will miss 
Veshnyakov's even-handed administration of the CEC, two 
bitter liberal politicians described him as a pawn who had 
served Putin's purposes, then been ejected. Putin CEC 
appointee Igor Fedorov, who hails from the Presidential 
Administration, St. Petersburg, and possibly the KGB, seems 
likely to replace Veshnyakov as the next CEC chairman. Under 
Veshnyakov, the CEC presided over a transition that saw much 
movement towards the managed, two-party system that the 
Kremlin has sought in advance of the upcoming parliamentary 
and presidential elections.  Although Veshnyakov's departure 
was not pretty, another job for him in the Putin 
Administration cannot be ruled out.  End summary. 
 
----------------- 
Surprise Omission 
----------------- 
 
2. (C)  The March 13 publication of Putin's decree naming his 
five allotted representatives to the fifteen-member Central 
Election Commission (CEC) excluded incumbent Chairman 
Aleksandr Veshnyakov, who had hoped to serve a third 
four-year term as CEC Chairman.  Many commentators attribute 
Veshnyakov's exclusion to his public criticism of United 
Russia-initiated amendments to election laws which dispensed 
with the "against all" option, removed the requirement for a 
minimum voter turnout, and made it easy to remove candidates 
from the ballot on technicalities (ref a).  In a February 28 
meeting with the Ambassador (ref b), Veshnyakov had been 
cautiously optimistic that he would retain his position.  His 
exclusion came as a shock.  On March 13, CEC International 
Relations staffer Olga Balashova told us that the news had 
been a great surprise to her and other CEC staffers. 
 
3. (C)  LDPR's Aleksey Mitrofanov told us that Veshnyakov had 
been ousted because he had created a "ministry of electoral 
affairs," rather than a commission for counting votes. 
Center for Political Technologies analyst Aleksey Makarkin 
agreed, pointing out that Veshnyakov had tried to work as a 
partner of the Kremlin, instead of as its client. 
 
4. (U)  Those on the more liberal (and bitter) end of the 
spectrum were less generous about Veshnyakov's legacy. 
Yabloko Chairman Grigoriy Yavlinskiy accused Veshnyakov of 
executing every order Putin gave him.  Independent Duma 
Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, noting that that Veshnyakov's term 
encompassed Putin's period of rule, held the CEC Chairman 
responsible for "destroying democracy" in Russia. 
 
----------- 
The New CEC 
----------- 
 
5. (SBU)  Maya Grishina, a Presidential Administration CEC 
representative, told us March 13 that the new CEC would not 
convene until after March 26.  It will comprise six new 
members (the 2003 turnover saw seven new members), but the 
tenor of its work will hinge on the new chairperson.  Igor 
Fedorov, one of President Putin's appointees, is favored to 
succeed Veshnyakov.  He is a former advisor to the 
Presidential Administration on internal affairs, a St. 
Petersburg native, and is rumored to have worked for the KGB. 
 Balashova hoped that there would not be great structural 
changes in the new CEC, but regretted the loss of respected 
professionals such as Olga Zastrozhnaya and Vladimir Lysenko. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
6. (C)  Veshnyakov's success in providing the Kremlin with 
the "dress rehearsal" election that it wanted, and thereby 
smoothing the way for managed, multi-party Duma and 
presidential elections, raises the possibility that the 
Kremlin will find a place for his professionalism and talents 
elsewhere in the Putin Administration.  On the other hand, 
the belief that Veshnyakov's downfall was traceable to his 
increasing outspokenness has sparked rumors here that he may 
opt for a future in politics; perhaps with For A Just Russia. 
 
 
 
MOSCOW 00001120  002 OF 002 
 
 
7. (C)  With little time left before the Duma and 
presidential elections, Veshnyakov's successor will have 
scant opportunity to make major changes in the workings of 
the CEC.  The new chairperson, however, will set the tone for 
the December 2007 Duma and the March 2008 presidential 
elections through the CEC's interpretation of the 
controversial amendments to the electoral law.  While 
Veshnyakov spoke out forcefully against technical exclusions 
of parties and candidates, his success in preventing the 
practice was uneven, and his acquiescence to Yabloko's 
removal in St. Petersburg was proof of the limits of his 
influence. 
BURNS

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