All Quiet on the Chechen Election Front

Prague Watchdog's correspondent O.B., North Caucasus - The general mood in Ingushetia and Chechnya on the eve of the Kremlin-organized Chechen presidential election, considering its apparent outcome beforehand, is relatively calm.

The final week before the election a relative calm settled over Grozny as well. Schools were closed and will reopen next Tuesday; movements of lorries throughout the city have been drastically curtailed; and many families decided to leave for neighboring villages. Only a markedly high number of foreign journalists, enveloped with armed security guards, marred the calmness. So far, no terrorist acts have been reported in the city or in other areas of the republic.

Here and there within the streets of Grozny an advertising skirmish broke out between the supporters of Akhmat Kadyrov and Malik Saidullayev. The dominant posters of Kadyrov (either a head shot of him wearing a typical Chechen hat, or standing with President Putin) were burned in protest and replaced with those of Saidullayev. However, these were individual acts and they were unable to overcome Kadyrov’s dominant campaign team that controlled all important areas in the country. Therefore, his cohorts immediately replaced all the defaced posters with new ones.

Relatives of the Chechens who had “disappeared” tried to use the upcoming election to hold a public rally. About 150 of them from the Staraya Shchedrinka village in the Shyolkovsky district in Northern Chechnya blocked a village road in order to protest the arrest of their neighbor, Ruslan Mirzayev. He had been abducted three days earlier by some masked men and his whereabouts are unknown. The villagers blame his disappearance on Kadyrov’s famed “security guards,” and threatened to boycott the election if the man was not released. The tense situation did not improve even after a few members of Kadyrov’s campaign team arrived and made vague promises to help. Meanwhile, the Russian media has reported about six similar cases occurring in Chechnya in recent days.

Apathy and disinterest are the predominating features of this election. Every person in Chechnya is aware that the Kremlin’s candidate, Kadyrov, is obviously set to be the winner. And after the withdrawal of his most serious rivals, the election is now but a mere formality.

Therefore, what remains is only speculation as to how many people will come out to vote for Kadyrov, and if there will be a huge proportion of falsified votes (as predicted by Russian human rights organizations). Many observers, however, feel that Kadyrov’s position and influence is so entrenched that the majority of the Chechen populace will eventually vote for him tomorrow. Especially since they rely on him, among other things, for their wages, pensions and social benefits, plus retaining their administrative positions.

In Gudermes on Thursday, the supporters of Kadyrov organized a convention entitled “Kadyrov - Our President.” Their candidate made it clearly plain that he has no doubts about his victory. And his success will bring, according to his own words, a tough “dictatorship of law,” a term originally coined by President Putin.

Kadyrov also promised his supporters to provide compensation as quickly as possible for about 39,000 Chechen families who, since 1999, had not received any financial aid for their destroyed homes. He also promised to intensify the battle against corruption and organized crime, and to screen how federal financing will be used to reconstruct Chechnya. His first step as president will be to enact a decree on investigating all criminals from 1991 who acted against the Chechen nation. “We’ll investigate even those who brought [first Chechen President] Dudayev to power.”



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