While Russia’s leaders exchange threats and insults, Chechen opposition leaders are pressing ahead with the construction of state institutions in the breakaway republic. The final touches are being put to a provisional coalition government, in which Aslan Maskhadov has been named prime minister and defense minister. Opposition leaders say presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in January, and that they will announce the precise election date today. (NTV, October 12) The opposition will put up a single presidential candidate; the candidates’s identity will not be announced until December, but at present it looks likely that acting president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev will be nominated.
Moscow officials, taken aback by the news, have objected that January is too soon for elections and that the Chechen opposition has no right to make unilateral decisions on such important matters. Moscow says that only the Joint Commission, on whose creation Lebed and Maskhadov agreed at Khasavyurt in August, may set the election date. The Russian and Chechen delegations to the Joint Commission were announced this week, and the new body has been holding its first meeting in Chechnya yesterday and today. Aleksandr Lebed is represented by his deputy Sergei Khalamov. (Interfax, October 15) But at this stage, and given the lack of consensus in Moscow, there seems little Moscow can do to stop the Chechen leadership from pressing ahead.
Maskhadov explained the rationale for early elections in a recent interview. He said speed was essential to prevent an Islamic state being "foisted" on the Chechens at a time when "people who fought in the name of Allah could be taken in very easily. This could push us towards fundamentalism." (Tyden [Prague], September 30) The only non-Chechen who has so far endorsed Maskhadov’s call for early elections is President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia, a Lebed-ally who is well placed to appreciate Maskhadov’s sense of urgency.
Lukashenko Consults Moscow Before Expected Showdown.