Kadyrov Delivers the Vote…

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 47

The results of the December 2 elections for the State Duma, in which the pro-Kremlin United Russia party received more than 64 percent of the vote nationwide in a contest that Russia’s opposition and foreign observers claim was neither free nor fair, were particularly suspect in the North Caucasus. Russia’s Central Election Commission (TsIK) reported that 99.21 percent of Chechnya’s eligible voters turned out, and that, of these, 99.36 percent voted for United Russia, whose ticket was headed by Vladimir Putin. Kavkazky Uzel reported on December 6 reported that according to the TsIK, 576,729 people in Chechnya voted in the State Duma election, meaning that only around 3,000 of the republic’s registered voters did not participate. According to Kavkazky Uzel, official turnout numbers in other republics of the North Caucasus were similarly impressive—98 percent in Ingushetia, 97 percent in Kabardino-Balkaria and 94 percent in Karachaevo-Cherkessia. The results of the State Duma elections are to be released December 7–8.

Interfax reported on December 2 that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had personally visited polling stations to observe the voting that day. “I am contented both the organization of the election campaign and the course of the voting itself,” the news agency quoted him as saying. “After numerous meetings and conversations with people who were at the polling stations, I can conclude that the election commissions took all the necessary measures to carry out the campaign successfully.” Newsru.com on December 2 reported that after voting in his native village of Tsentoroi, Kadyrov several times danced the lezghinka (a folk dance of the North Caucasus) outside, including with his sister Zulai Kadyrova. Reuters on December 3 quoted Kadyrov—who had promised to deliver 100 percent of Chechnya’s vote to Putin—as saying of the Soviet-style levels of putative voter participation in his republic: “High voter turnout in the parliamentary elections shows great civic responsibility. People understand that they have the right to choose.”

Interfax on December 5 quoted Kadyrov, who topped the list of United Russia candidates in Chechnya, as saying he would not leave his post as Chechnya’s president to take a seat in the State Duma. “Indeed, I was number one on the United Russia regional list for the State Duma elections,” Kadyrov told the news agency. “Everyone knows the result. The people have unconditionally backed the course led by the country’s and Chechen governments. Almost 100 percent of voters in Chechnya voted for United Russia. I take it not only as a result of the elections, but also as an answer to the question of confidence in us and as an assessment of the reforms occurring in Chechnya and the country.”

Kavkazky Uzel on December 4 quoted an unnamed local political scientist as saying that the local branches of the parties that lost the December 2 State Duma elections are unlikely to contest the results in Chechnya. “Ramzan Kadyrov is first on the list of Chechen United Russia people,” the political scientist told Kavkazky Uzel correspondent Sultan Abubakarov. “And the federal list [of candidates] from that party was headed by Vladimir Putin. Naturally, the leadership of other branches of political parties in Chechnya, whether it is the KPRF [the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the SPS [Union of Right Forces], the LDPR [Liberal Democratic Party of Russia] and so on, will not be protesting the results of the voting that took place in the republic. First of all, because it would raise doubts about the authority of the head of Chechnya.”

A representative of the liberal Yabloko party in Chechnya named Usman told Kavkazky Uzel: “United Russia’s victory around the country as a whole is associated with the name of Vladimir Putin. United Russia in Chechnya—it is Ramzan Kadyrov. As Mayakovsky said: ‘We say party, we imply…’(a reference to a line from a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky: “When we say ‘Lenin’, we imply the Party, When we say ‘Party’, we imply ‘Lenin).”

A representative of a local human rights organization told Kavkazky Uzel: “It has been known around the world for a long time that that if such over-the-top numbers for the voters’ activeness are announced, it means a falsification.” He called the official turnout figure of 99-plus percent “totally ludicrous,” adding: “In my view, a maximum of 15-20 percent of the citizens takes part in any election in our republic. And those are for the most part state workers. The people are simply tired of all of these election campaigns, given that people are firmly convinced the authorities will count the votes as they see fit. I spoke yesterday with a slew of my acquaintances, and there wasn’t one among them who went to vote. Everyone understands that 99.21 percent turnout is completely absurd, but they keep quiet. There’s simply nothing else they can do.”

Timur Aliev, who ran in the latest State Duma election as a candidate from the Union of Right Forces (SPS), reported that based on his own observations, the turnout on December 2 was only 30 percent.

The December 2 elections in Chechnya also included a referendum on changes to the republic’s constitution, which—according to election officials—were passed overwhelmingly. RIA Novosti on December 6 quoted the head of Chechnya’s election commission, Ismail Baikhanov, as saying that 96.15 percent of those registered to participate in the referendum did so and that 96.88 percent of them voted in favor of the changes. The changes involved more than 50 articles of Chechnya’s constitution, including the right of the republic’s parliament to introduce any changes to the constitution and to the procedures for granting powers to the republic’s president.

Kavkazky Uzel quoted an anonymous Chechen political scientist as saying: “It is no secret to anyone that the republic’s parliament is completely loyal to and under the control of Ramzan Kadyrov. I will not be surprised if, in the near future, deputies of the parliament introduce changes in the article [of the constitution] concerning the term of the head of the republic and increase it from four to five or seven years. Simultaneously, other norms may be introduced strengthening the regime of personal power in the republic.”