How best to read Chechen election result
Prague Watchdog's correspondent O.B., North Caucasus – While reading the news about the unusually high number of Chechen voters, the unsurprising victory of Akhmad Kadyrov, and the smooth running of the entire election process, the reader should also bear in mind the following:
- The absence of foreign observers, along with eyewitnesses in Grozny stating all was calm and the turnout in the voting districts minimal, and with the Russian media announcing streets were teeming with voters anxiously rushing to polling sites, all undoubtedly signifies that the votes were partially falsified in favor of Kadyrov. How many actually were, however, is impossible to know.
- It is highly probable that the vote count is fictitious, yet it cannot be denied that a high percentage of Chechens truly supported Kadyrov. Four years of a government under his dictatorial reign, his inability to agree with other political rivals, and the many criminal and power plays that went on created an unpopular image; yet despite all that, Kadyrov remains as the one who is pulling all the political strings, which no local politician can hope to stand up against. His pre-election presidential campaign in Chechnya not only set about to eliminate all his serious rivals, it also included a clever tactic of “buying” votes. This consisted of the media’s brainwashing the masses by announcing compensation would be forthcoming for everyone whose home was destroyed, small sums of cash payments to voters, and the like.
- After ten years of war and conflicts, Chechnya is so decimated and worn out that it is not difficult to buy the votes of its citizens. The majority of intellectuals have left the regions, and many of those who remained are uneducated and confused inhabitants whose only desire is to survive from one day to the next, protect their loved ones, and maintain a steady, minimal wage. Meanwhile, Kadyrov’s cronies hold all the key jobs. And in a land of high unemployment, corruption and brutality, it was not difficult to influence the electorate in his favor. So Kadyrov got their votes because a small percentage of people really do support him and an even larger part fears him. The remaining malcontents, who either didn’t go to the polls or voted for another candidate, were summarily discounted in the media.