Last week the 47-year-old Alu Alkhanov emerged as the man to beat in the upcoming special election for the presidency of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration. (For details of Alkhanov’s biography, see the June 9 issue of Chechnya Weekly). The pro-Moscow administration’s Interior Minister received the Kadyrov clan’s blessing on June 10, at memorial ceremonies for Ramzan Kadyrov’s recently deceased elder brother in the family’s home town of Tsentoroi. Thousands of people were present, including the pro-Moscow administration’s major political and religious leaders. The obviously staged “unanimous endorsement” came in response to a motion to endorse Alkhanov’s candidacy made by the prominent Chechen imam, Shakhid Gazabaev. As Gazeta.ru put it on June 10, “the funeral wake smoothly turned into a political rally.”
Though Alkhanov himself was not present on June 10, Gazeta.ru noted that “nobody in Chechnya has any doubt that he will agree to run; all the acting leaders of the republic immediately spoke up with warm words about him as the most worthy successor to Akhmad Kadyrov.”
The Soviet-style theme of forced unanimity was apparent in the words of State Council head Taus Dzhabrailov, previously mentioned as a possible candidate for president. Grani.ru on June 10 quoted him as saying that “the leadership of the Chechen Republic is monolithic and does not intend to allow any splits in the course of the election campaign.”
Immediate endorsements also came from prominent Moscow figures such as Boris Gryzlov, head of the pro-Putin United Russia party and State Duma speaker.
In keeping with his well-known style of bullying, Ramzan Kadyrov came close to ordering the Chechen people to vote for Alkhanov. “Many have shown presidential ambitions,” he said, “but we do not have the right to conduct experiments for the sake of experiments. If we are feeling pain for our people and for its future, we are obliged not to stir up a struggle for the presidential post but to put forward and support a man who knows the situation.”
According reported by Fyodor Rumyantsev for Gazeta.ru on June 10, Ramzan spent the last month—almost the entire period since his father’s death—promoting Alkhanov’s candidacy to the Kremlin.
It is obvious from the circumstances of his selection that Alkhanov is committed to continuing the policies of the assassinated Kadyrov. The new candidate confirmed that commitment in some detail in an interview published on June 11 by the pro-Kremlin website Utro.ru. “On the strategic level,” he told the website’s correspondent Andrei Yurev, “it seems to me that there should not be any fundamental changes.”
To be consistent, of course, Alkhanov will have to take the line that the current strategy has been successful—and that is exactly what he plans to do, judging by his interview with Utro.ru. “We are on the right course,” he said. “Personally I am glad that the efforts of the republic’s security and law-enforcement agencies are bringing concrete results. Not far distant is the day when we shall be able to say that the crime of kidnapping people has ceased to exist in Chechnya.”
In a comment not likely to win him new friends in the federal security structures, Alkhanov echoed the Kadyrov family’s position on transferring authority for security operations from the federal to the republican level. “It is essential first and foremost to place full responsibility for the state of affairs in a district on the head of the militia,” he said. “He now has to deal with the head of the operations group and the military command of the district. If he is to answer for that district, then he should have the power to take action and to bring together all the forces and resources which those leaders have in that district. That is to say, there must be unity of command.”
Alkhanov also demonstrated continuing loyalty to the bureaucracy that he now serves, telling Utro.ru that the pro-Moscow administration’s Interior Ministry is and should be growing in size. He said that the personnel files of 270 new applicants for positions in the ministry are now being reviewed, and indirectly confirmed his support of the Kadyrov family’s long-standing policy of recruiting rebel guerrillas who have defected. “I will not conceal that we are choosing people with military experience,” he told Utro.ru. “First and foremost, our selection is taking place from among the personnel of the security service of the president of the republic. That structure has trained candidates, tested in battle and in other challenging situations. They will constitute the foundation of the new structure which is being formed: a new regiment.”
The new presidential hopeful even implied that he is going out of his way to find work for members of the Kadyrov family’s personal army not only in the interior ministry but in other security agencies. He expressed hope that “they will be able to enter into contracts with the Interior [Ministry] forces and with the Defense Ministry.”
In spite of the Alkhanov juggernaut, unnamed sources told the Gazeta.ru website that Ruslan Yamadaev still intends to run. This is in keeping with earlier predictions (see Chechnya Weekly, June 9) that Yamadaev and Alkhanov might both be in the race with one of them pulling out at the last minute. But at present it seems far more likely that the one to withdraw would be Yamadaev.
As of June 11, just before the extended holiday weekend marking the anniversary of Russia’s independence from the Soviet Union, there were six candidates formally registered with the Chechen election authorities: Moscow businessman Malik Saidullaev; Mariat Garchkhanova, a local bureaucrat for the pro-Moscow administration in the Urus-Martan district southwest of Grozny; Vakha Visaev of Nozhai-Yurt in eastern Chechnya; Rostov physician Marat Zainalabirov, an aide to Duma deputy Aleksandr Malyshkin and activist for the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; academician and surgeon Sultan Aiskhanov; and Grozny lawyer Adam Edilov. Of these six, only Saidullaev can be considered a serious candidate.