Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 88

Yesterday, in the village of Moskovsky in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, a Molotov cocktail was hurled at the electoral headquarters of Stanislav Derev, one of the candidates running to become the republic’s head. Over the May 1 holiday weekend, eight terrorist acts were carried out against Derev’s various electoral headquarters and the homes of his supporters. Derev himself, who led in a first round of voting, in which he gained 40.1 percent of the vote, is certain that these acts of intimidation are being carried out by persons who would like to see Moscow cancel the runoff vote, set for May 16, and impose a state of emergency on the republic (NTV, RTR, ORT, May 5; see Monitor, May 5).

A cancellation of the elections would not only hurt Derev, however. It would probably also hurt his main competitor, former Russian ground forces head Vladimir Semenov, who won 17.9 percent of the vote in the first round. Semenov is a member of the Karachaev ethnic group, which accounts for around 30 percent of the republic’s population. In the first round the vote of this group was split between several Karachaev candidates. In the runoff, Semenov can count on the votes of all Karachaev voters, which could hand him a win.

Overturning the elections would benefit only Vladimir Khubiev, the current head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, who has ruled the republic for nineteen years and whose term runs out May 19. Local observers say Khubiev’s team was involved in the violence, because the imposition of emergency federal rule would allow him to stay in power for an indeterminate period or, in the most radical case, share power with a Moscow-appointed governor. After the first round of voting, there were rumors that Khubiev called Moscow and asked that the elections be cancelled. Indeed, it is precisely the Kremlin’s fear of “bloody confrontations,” including ethnic ones–of which Khubiev never tired of warning–which allowed him to stay in power so long (Vremya-MN, May 5). This time, however, the Kremlin seems determined to carry out the elections in Karachaevo-Cherkessia. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin announced that 700 additional OMON special forces would be sent to the republic. He said he was certain that the situation would remain under control. Stepashin is much more worried about what will happen in the republic after the elections–specifically, about the possibility of interethnic confrontations which could turn the republic into a “second Chechnya.”

Derev is a member of the Cherkes ethnic group, and the Karachaev political elite, which has traditionally ruled the republic, is hardly likely to come to terms with his victory (see the Monitor, April 29). At the same time, Semenov’s victory could spark discontent among the Cherkes, who make up 10 percent of the republic, and ethnic Russians, who make up 40 percent (NTV, ORT, RTR, May 5; see the Monitor, May 5).