CHECHEN CAMPAIGN OFFICIALLY BEGINS.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 3
Chechnya’s 16 presidential hopefuls took an oath in Grozny on January 3, promising to wage an honest election campaign, to abide by the results of the voting, and to remain loyal to Chechnya’s new president, whoever he may be. (Itar-Tass, January 3) Only five of the 16 are seen as front-runners–incumbent president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev, former prime minister Aslan Maskhadov, field commander Shamil Basaev, former deputy prime minister Movladi Udugov, and former presidential security adviser Akhmed Zakaev.
Four of those five met on Sunday and, according to Udugov, pledged that, if one of their number is elected, the rest will form his loyal team. The possibility mooted earlier, that the five might unite behind a single candidate, was not discussed at Sunday’s meeting, though it was stressed that a split between erstwhile comrades-in-arms was unacceptable. (RTR, January 5) This topic is especially relevant at time when many observers speak of open hostility between Yandarbiev and Maskhadov.
The position of Maskhadov, who leads in the polls, is clear. On January 4 he spoke out against the idea of a single candidate, saying this would make for an election without a choice. (ORT, January 4) But Yandarbiev continued to insist on uniting. "There are sixteen candidates. If only one of the five of us runs, there will still be twelve left. That leaves the people with broad choices," he argued. (RTR, January 5) It is clear, however, that the other candidates, who are comparatively unknown, will hardly be worthy rivals of a single candidate of the stature of one of the big five. In calling for a single candidate, therefore, Yandarbiev seems to be counting on being that candidate, and on winning the election easily. This does not suit his comrades. Maskhadov showed up late to the meeting, and Basaev ignored it completely. (RTR, January 5)
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