A mosque for bikers (weekly review)
By Dzhambulat Are
GROZNY, Chechnya – On October 12 so-called “snap” parliamentary elections will be held in Chechnya. Residents of the republic must elect a unicameral legislative body. 347 candidates – representatives of the regional branches of the seven political parties that are registered in Chechnya – are contending for 41 parliamentary seats.
These elections are unlikely to change anything in the political architecture of the Kadyrov regime, except perhaps by revealing the identity of the president’s new favourites. From the very beginning the Chechen Parliament was established not as an organ of power but as a piece of window-dressing. It even lacks the rudimentary functions of a parliament, and is a sort of entrance hall, situated at a distance from the royal chambers, for Kadyrov’s loyal companions, where they are free to sing the praises of their patron in different keys.
Few in the republic doubt that the percentage of voters who go to the polls will be high. As a rule in this North Caucasus region it closely approaches the maximum figure. Though sometimes things go wrong and the "grifters" in the election commissions “paint” a 100 per cent turnout with unwavering hand. However, because such excessive diligence produces a comical effect, it is not too welcome at present. This time Ramzan Kadyrov, who has probably been given a stern corrective from the highest levels, is promising that everything will be done above board – giving his detractors an excuse to ask how it was done before.
It is true that recently the republic’s electoral commission removed from the list of parties a grouping whose emergence in Chechnya looks like someone's inappropriate joke – the Green Party. Its signatures have been deemed invalid. And quite right too! This is not the time for dubious entertainments.
Shorn of any intrigue, the elections may well attract the attention of specialists in the field of party-building because of one point that is not completely clear: how many parliamentary seats will be allocated to representatives of the minority parties, and what, so to speak, are the limits of decency that have been set for Chechnya?
Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads the local branch of the United Russia party, made a personal appearance at the electoral commission and received a certificate which declared him Candidate No. 1. The party list for the election has been drawn up with some reserve to spare: 61 United Russia candidates will contend for 41 seats. Their competition will be the “Zhirinovskyites”, who have arrived in Chechnya for some strange reason, the Communists, Fair Russia (“Motherland, Pensioners, Life”), the Party of Peace and Unity, Patriots of Russia, and the People's Union.
For the Chechen ruler himself, the composition of the parliament does not really matter. Even if the candidates’ party affiliation varies, in one respect they are indistinguishable – they are all equally ready to support any initiative taken by their leader. For this reason Kadyrov could, if he so desired, fill the parliament with members of the Union of the Sword and the Ploughshare, except that the Kremlin understandably wants a certain level of representation for United Russia.
Last week Ramzan Kadyrov showed himself to be not only a skilled political businessman, but also a highly successful one. It is said that in Ichkerian times, when the residents of the free republic were struggling to survive, the future all-powerful ruler worked as a trader in oil and oil condensate. But, alas, black gold did not bring him a fortune. Among his compatriots there was no shortage of entrepreneurs selling surrogate in glass jars at the market. Those who had established themselves in this business were mainly former guerrillas, who in the event of any dispute used the assault rifle as an irrefutable argument. And so Kadyrov Junior – then just a less-than-brainy youth – had not the slightest chance of obtaining an advantageous position in commercial life.
Now to another matter. Rumour has it that there is an inadmissible amount of money in the republic. The cash is accumulating in the Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrov charitable foundation. In today’s Chechnya, control over its activities is simply impossible.
A year ago, Kadyrov hit upon the idea of building in his beloved Gudermes district a cold storage plant with the romantic name of "Iceberg." No sooner said than done. On September 9 the company was solemnly put into operation.
According to Kadyrov’s press service, the plant has been stocked with "bananas, apples, tangerines, oranges and pineapples, so essential for the Chechen population." Moreover, the president’s press office, now quite skilled in the art of commercial advertising, is trying to attract potential customers with reports of "direct shipments to be carried out from Moscow, St Petersburg and Baku."
The plant has also begun production of more than twenty varieties of ice cream. This is intended both for the domestic market and for consumers outside the Chechen Republic.
The Akhmad Kadyrov Foundation cannot, of course, put money into such projects directly – after all, its purpose is to attract funds for charitable purposes. Who is the owner of the giant enterprise, and into whose pocket will the proceeds of commercial activities go? It is understandable that no one will actually ask these questions, since curiosity of that kind poses a risk to life.
But not all is gained by bread alone. During the week Ramzan Kadyrov’s predilection for spectacle manifested itself in a way that was slightly out of the ordinary. For a few days the centre of Grozny throbbed to the roar of hundreds of motorcycles. To the Chechen capital had come bikers, participants in the "Moto-march of Friendship 2008" motorcycle rally. Members of the informal association of bikers from all over the world not only demonstrated their skills on Akhmad-Khadzhi Kadyrov Square, but also visited a mosque named after him, the construction of which is almost complete.
The politically correct motorcyclists brought with them not leather-clad girlfriends and beer, but words of thanks and admiration for the Akhmad Kadyrov Foundation which had invited them to the republic. Ramzan Kadyrov heard warm words about the beautiful city in which, no matter how hard one may try, it is now impossible to find traces of the recent destruction. On that happy note the unusual event came to its conclusion. Although, had the bikers suddenly thought to criticize the head of the republic, the story would have had a slightly different ending.
Photograph source: PRO.Warez.ru
Previous weekly reviews can be read at http://www.watchdog.cz/weekly.
(Translation by DM)
(T) RELATED ARTICLES:
· An electoral farce (PW, 2.3.2008)
· Parliamentary elections in Chechnya (PW, 30.11.2005)
· Parliament of the Chechen Republic
· The Electoral Commission of the Chechen Republic