A by-election was held in Dagestan’s Buinaksk electoral district last weekend. Voters were choosing a candidate to represent them in Russia’s State Duma in place of Ramazan Abdulatipov, who had to give up the seat when he was appointed deputy prime minister last year. The election was won by Dagestan’s Deputy Finance Minister Magomed Fazil Azizov, an ethnic Lezgin, who won 54 percent of the vote. His main opponent, Magomed Aliev, an ethnic Avar and director of the "Mais" firm, won 36 percent of the vote. (NTV, March 31)
In multi-ethnic Dagestan, voters habitually support candidates from their own ethnic group. With Avars the largest ethnic group in the district (26 percent of the voters, Lezgins making up 15 percent), most people expected Aliev to be elected. This time, however, the republic authorities managed to overcome the voters’ ethnic preferences. Makhachkala openly supported Azizov, who was seen as more amenable to the wishes of the leadership. "There has not been a Lezgin deputy in the Russian parliament since 1993. Therefore, we should support a candidate belonging to this ethnic group, which is one of Dagestan’s largest," Dagestani Security Council Secretary Magomed Tolboev told the Monitor.
Also influencing the outcome was the split Avar vote. Originally, the plan was for the leader of the Avar National Front and chairman of "Dagneft," Hadji Makhachev, to run as the unopposed Avar candidate. On the eve of the elections, however, Makhachev was offered the post of deputy premier and withdrew from the race. As a result, several Avar candidates ran, and the votes from that ethnic group were split among them.
As Monitor has reported, the republic’s parliament has recently amended the constitution to allow the chairman of the State Council, Magomedali Magomedov, to run for a second term as head of the republic in the election scheduled to take place this July. (See the Monitor, March 27) Last weekend’s election indicates that the government is in a strong position and can cleverly "correct" the electorate’s preferences. Magomedov’s chances of re-election are therefore probably quite high.
Russian Premier Files Income Declaration.