Chechen Labor and Social Development Minister Magomed Vakhaev on March 22 called for a series of amendments to the republic’s constitution, including changing the age requirement for the Chechen president. “In the Constitution of the Chechen Republic there are quite a few norms, provisions, which require substantial editorial correcting,” Vakhaev said at a ceremony marking the third anniversary of the constitution’s adoption, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on March 23. “According to the constitution in force, a person who has reached the age of 30 can become president. It seems to us that this requirement is not based on anything and needs to be repealed.” Many “contradictions” that “slipped into” the constitution need to be “eliminated,” Vakhaev said.
According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the age requirement for the head of Chechnya is found in Article 66, Chapter 4 of the republic’s constitution, and, according to the constitution, the requirement can be amended by a vote of two-thirds or more of the republic’s Constitutional Assembly—meaning that a referendum is not required. Yet, Arkady Lyubarev, an expert at the Independent Institute of Elections, a Moscow-based think-tank, told the newspaper that the federal law—“On the general principles for organizing the organs of legislative and executive power of the subjects of the Federation”—clearly states that the minimum age for the head of a Russia region is 30 and does not allow the regions themselves to set the age. Thus according to Lyubarev, any change in the age requirement made by the Chechen authorities would violate federal law.
The newspaper noted that Chechen Labor and Social Development Minister Magomed Vakhaev is an experienced lawyer who would know about these contradictions. Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center told Nezavisimaya gazeta that while it was difficult to explain Vakhaev’s demarche, “it looks like either a high level of toadying or that some sort of event took place that so frightened Ramzan that he wants to become Chechnya’s legitimate president as quickly as possible.” It should be noted that Kadyrov, who was confirmed as Chechnya’s prime minister on March 4 (see Chechnya Weekly, March 9), will turn 30 on October 5 of this year, while the next republican presidential election is scheduled to take place in the fall of 2008.
For his part, Valery Khomyakov, general dierector of the Council on National Strategy, told Nezavisimaya gazeta: “It looks more like a PR action. Such a fuss around the figure of Kadyrov is, speaking candidly, simply laughable. One would hope that officials in Chechnya…would behave somewhat more modestly. Although I understand them: Ramzan has gained so much strength of late that each local official is trying once again to demonstrate their loyalty.”