Filling Chechnya’s Seats In Parliament

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 2

As political life in Moscow revives with the end of the December-January holiday season, a leading topic of discussion among Chechnya-watchers is Kadyrov’s surprise appointment of Umar Dzhabrailov as one of the republic’s representatives in the upper house of the federal parliament (see Chechnya Weekly, January 7). Tatiana Stanovaya suggested in a January 6 article for that one of the winners in this latest move is the Kremlin, in that Kadyrov will lack any real leverage over Dzhabrailov once the latter is sworn into his new position. In effect, as Stanovaya put it, “the federal center has nationalized Chechnya’s seat in the Federation Council.” She added that Dzhabrailov’s shady reputation will make him even more susceptible to Kremlin manipulation.

Each province in the Russian Federation is supposed to have two representatives in the Federation Council, one appointed by the province’s governor and the other by its legislature. This system has been denounced as “undemocratic,” but formally it is not very different from the method specified in the original U.S. Constitution for appointing members of the United States Senate–a method that remained in force until the end of the nineteenth century. In Russia, however, the provincial governors and legislators themselves have often been elected by highly dubious means. Sometimes the legislators are simply pawns of the governor, so that in effect he gets to make not just one, but both, of the region’s appointments to the Federation Council; this is definitely the case in Chechnya. In fact, Kadyrov’s dictatorial control over all the republic’s political institutions is such that he seems to have ignored the formalities by issuing a decree directly appointing not just Dzhabrailov, but Musa Umarov as well.

According to the January 12 issue of Novye izvestia, Umarov is to fill the seat previously held by a representative of Chechnya’s state council–the republic’s legislative body. Like Dzhabrailov, Umarov is an influential member of the Chechen business community in Moscow. Last fall he filed as a candidate in the race for Chechnya’s seat in the federal Duma, but withdrew just a few days before the December 7 election.

At least some of their new parliamentary colleagues expect Dzhabrailov and Umarov to focus exclusively on what a January 12 article by Ivan Sukhov on the Vremya novostei website called “lobbying activities.” Sukhov quoted Akhmar Zavgaev, Chechnya’s newly elected Duma representative, as opining that “Kadyrov appointed Dzhabrailov in the hope that at long last investment capital will be attracted to the republic.”