In another sign that the anti-Kadyrov faction inside the Putin administration is still alive despite the heavy-handed transformation of Chechnya’s election campaign into a one man race, the pro-Kremlin website Strana.ru published on September 18 a candid admission that the election has lost even the appearance of legitimacy. Commenting on separatist diplomat Akhmed Zakaev’s vigorous attacks on the rigged election, Fyodor Chekhoev of Strana.ru observed that “unfortunately, Zakaev’s conclusions to a significant degree are in accord with reality. The presidential election in Chechnya, which actually did begin as a fully democratic procedure, now looks as if it has already been decided.” Even more remarkably, Chekhoev conceded that “many of those who will now cast ballots will do so out of fear…”
Information and accusations reported by the more independent news media were even stronger. Malik Saidullaev, forced out of the race by Chechnya’s supreme court on September 11, told Novaya gazeta that he had been approached twice before that date with proposals for withdrawing his candidacy. “In exchange they promised supplementary opportunities for expanding my business,” he said. An aide to ex-candidate Khusein Dzhabrailov, who ostensibly withdrew “voluntarily,” said that people “from above” had advised his boss “not to ‘create complications’ for his own business.”
Novaya gazeta pointed out that the southern federal okrug already has an enormous bureaucracy specializing in Chechnya in addition to that of Federal Minister for Chechen Affairs Stanislav Ilyasov. “Thus there are no doubts,” the newspaper concluded; the new position to be offered to ex-candidate Aslanbek Aslakhanov “was specially thought up for him, so as to satisfy his ambitions while easing him into rejecting the idea of becoming Chechnya’s leader.”
Political analyst Vladimir Pribylovksy of the Moscow-based Panorama research center told Agence France-Presse that the removal of Kadyrov’s three main rivals “erases any trace of legitimacy from the elections….But there was never any legitimacy in these elections from the start. Elections can’t be legitimate in a republic where there is a civil and colonial war going on.”
A well-connected Moscow journalist who specializes in Chechen affairs told Chechnya Weekly in a September 12 telephone interview that, in his view, the Kremlin’s latest maneuvers are illogical even on their own terms. What the Putin administration needs is the illusion of peace, he said, and the latest events so thoroughly de-legitimize the Chechnya election as to undermine that illusion. In effect, the Kremlin has dug itself even deeper into a dead-end situation.
Asked by Chechnya Weekly to predict what would happen after October 5, this journalist suggested that the anti-Kadyrov elements in the federal security agencies would remain unreconciled and would fight the newly “elected” president harder than ever. They might even stimulate more activity by the rebel guerrillas against Kadyrov, he said–using links with the guerrillas that already exist and that have already been used in places like Abkhazia.