Author`s name Michael Simpson

Chechnya Elections: Kremlin Favors a Different Candidate

The anti-Kadyrov opposition is gaining force
Kadyrov seems to have a lost an important ally supporting his candidacy to become Chechnya's president. The pro-presidental block of parties United Russuia only days ago endorced his candidacy - now they have experienced a change of heart. With more candidates entering the race, Kardyrov's campaign effort just get a bit harder. 

On August 12, former head of the Achkhoi-Martan district of Chechnya Shamil Burayev declared his intention to run for the presidency. Burayev says that he is pursuing one objective: to woo voters away from the present-day head of the Chechen administration Ahmad Kadyrov, who is also a candidate running for president.  Shamil Burayev was fired from his posta as head of the Achkhoi-Martan diKadyrov seems to have a lost an important ally supporting his candidacy to become Chechnya's president. The pro-presidental block of parties United Russuia only days ago endorced his candidacy - now they have experienced a change of heart. With more candidates entering the race, Kardyrov's campaign effort just get a bit harder. strict right before Ahmad Kadyrov formed the Chechen Council of State.

Yesterday, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, the most dangerous rival of Ahmad Kadyrov declared his intention to run for the position of Chechen president. Russia's news agency RIA Novosti learnt this information over the phone from deputy chairman of the Chechen Election Commission Sari Arsakhanov. According to Arsakhanov, Deputy Aslanbek Aslakhanov submitted a complete packet of documents to the election commission Wednesday morning. From August 14 to August 20 he has to win the support of 2 per cent of voters, which means he has to collect not less than 11,000 signatures backing his candidacy. Only after this procedure he may become a registered candidate to the presidential post.

Besides Aslanbek Aslakhanov, the following people are running for the position of Chechen president: incumbent leader of Chechnya Ahmad Kadyrov, Retired Police Colonel of Chechnya Zaindi Mavlatov, lecturer from the Chechen University Avkhad Khachukayev, businessman from Moscow Hussein Dzhabrailov, former vice-premier of Ichkeria Hussein Biybulatov and other candidates. 

Another candidate who may leave the two main candidates behind, ex-speaker of the Supreme Council Ruslan Khasbulatov hasn't yet informed the Chechen Election Commission of his participation in the election. He still has time to hand in his documents as the deadline is August 20.

The Moscow diaspora Chechens (Ruslan Khasbulatov is a prominent representative of the diaspora) is forming an anti-Kadyrov coalition which was stated last week by businessman Malik Saidullayev, one of the candidates in the Chechen race. The strategy of an election campaign is how many candidates should be put forward - one or several. As the logic suggests, the second variant is better for Chechnya. For the time being, none of the candidates enjoy the Chechen-wide support; each candidate is supported by a separate Chechen clan or group of clans. The rating of Kadyrov's electoral support (it is rather biased as all ratings are) just proves this fact. For the period of Kadyrov's office at head of the Chechen administration, his credit of trust hasn't considerably increased.

It is highly likely that the opposition members will go to the elections in columns to win the votes from Kadyrov; then a candidate who manages to win the maximum of votes will accumulate votes of those candidates who fail to enter the second round of elections. Then, it is not ruled out that technologies of different kind will be employed against Ahmad Kadyrov's administrative resource. Indeed, deputies from the anti-Kadyrov coalition will have their programs based upon criticism of the present-day head of Chechnya; but doing so they will take votes away from each other (and Kadyrov may benefit from this situation).

As for a real candidate who may compete with Ahmad Kadyrov for the votes of the electorate, this may be Aslanbek Aslakhanov. His political career partly resembles that of Ruslan Khasbulatov, but it is rather moderate at that. In the early 1990s, being a Russian deputy representing Gudermes, Aslakhanov assisted the promotion of Dudayev. It was allegedly said that it was Aslakhanov who persuaded the Chechen aviation general to come back to Chechnya to head the republic. When Dudayev ended relations with Moscow, Aslanbek Aslakhanov stopped supporting him. He also gave up his support to Ruslan Khasbulatov when the latter fell out with Russia President Boris Yeltsin.

During both Chechen campaigns Interior Ministry General Aslanbek Aslakhanov was at head of the Law Enforcement Workers Association; he strictly criticized doings of the federal forces. In the opinion of Moscow he still remains a loyal politician.

As for Ahmad Kadyrov, within the recent period he attempted to persuade Moscow that he was the only person in the Chechen republic with whom Moscow could come to an agreement and who was ready to liquidate Chechens for the sake of the pro-Moscow policy and his far-reaching appetites. However it is not ruled out that Kadyrov's appetites let him down. The recent story connected with redistribution of the authorities between Chechnya and the federal center proved that if it is possible Kadyrov is ready to seize not only extra sovereignty, but also the Chechen oil reserves, the main issue over which the fighting is going on in Chechnya. The Kremlin pulled Kadyrov up then, but obviously decided to look for an alternative for the former mufti. Under such conditions presidential elections seem to be a good opportunity for solution of a personnel problem, but it is not clear yet where to find a suitable candidate.

The news that Ahmad Kadyrov is in disfavor is proved by his failed alliance with the United Russia party (which is known as a pro-president party). Ahmad Kadyrov sent a letter to one of the party leaders, Boris Gryzlov and asked him for support at the elections. Boris Gryzlov heeded the request and told journalists on July 24 that United Russia would give this sort of support to Ahmad Kadyrov.

May be Russia's Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said it because he knew that starting with September 1 the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya would go from under the command of the FSB to the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry; he obviously didn't want to spoil relations with the important ally. However, the United Russia political council disapproved of the comments made by Boris Gryzlov. It has come even to some kind of a split inside of the party because of the issue of rendering support to Ahmad Kadyrov. It is not ruled out that the party's political council will reject the candidature of Ahmad Kadyrov.

That is why Ahmad Kadyrov decided to anticipate the events and on July 30 he publicly declared that he rejected all tempting propositions made by different parties (in fact, in addition to promises of Boris Gryzlov, similar promises of support were given by one of the SPS regional departments and from Gennady Raikov's People's Party). So Aslanbek Aslakhanov has good chances if the Kremlin strongly supports him.

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