Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 128

Chechnya’s acting Prime Minister Shamil Basaev gave his resignation to President Aslan Maskhadov on July 3. Basaev said that he had set himself a six-month term and was determined to leave office when it expired. Pointing out that he was appointed “by the president, not by parliament,” Basaev said he would be reporting on the cabinet’s work to Maskhadov, not to the republic’s parliament. (ORT, NTV, RTR, July 3)

Basaev said he would leave office “even if the president refuses my resignation and asks me to stay on.” But presidential press secretary Mairbek Vachagaev thinks that, “as a law-abiding citizen and politician,” Basaev will most likely listen to the president’s opinion when he makes his final decision. (NTV, July 3)

Basaev’s resignation may be a preemptive strike in his ongoing conflict with the legislature. According to the speaker of parliament, the deputies were resolved to vote for the removal not only of Basaev, but of the entire cabinet of ministers, with the exception of Shariah Security Minister Ruslan Alihajiev. (Kommersant-daily, July 3) Basaev resigned once before, but agreed to remain in his post after Maskhadov refused to accept his resignation.

If Basaev were to leave the government now, his doing so could seriously destabilize the republic’s already uneasy situation. Basaev was Maskhadov’s main rival in last year’s presidential election, when he appealed to the radical wing of the electorate, and relations between the two men have been tense in the past. Since then, leadership of the radical wing has been seized by Salman Raduev. Shared opposition to Raduev has forced Maskhadov and Basaev to reconcile their differences. Maskhadov has been careful never to criticize Basaev publicly. As long as Basaev and Maskhadov remain allies, many former resistance fighters are restrained from going over to Raduev’s camp. Were this fragile balance to be upset, Chechnya’s political spectrum could once again become dangerously polarized.