Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 43

On November 7, Umar Dzhabrailov, Chechnya’s representative in the Federation Council and a close ally of Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, urged another close Kadyrov ally, Chechen People’s Assembly speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, to initiate a measure calling on Kadyrov to become the republic’s president, thereby replacing Alu Alkhanov. Kadyrov turned 30 – the minimum age for a Chechen president, according to the republic’s constitution – on October 5.

“I don’t understand why Alu Alkhanov doesn’t find the courage to leave office and transfer it to the chairman of the government, Ramzan Kadyrov,” Dzhabrailov said in remarks directed to Abdurakhmanov during a roundtable held in Moscow. The theme of the roundtable was: “Chechnya Today: The Specifics of Administration and the Prospects for its Further Development. The Role of Ramzan Kadyrov in Securing Peace and political stability in the Chechen Republic.” Dzhabrailov added that “the entire Chechen people are expecting it, and this was confirmed during the Congress of the Assembly of Peoples of the Chechen Republic” (Chechnya Weekly, November 2). Kadyrov and his government constitute one of the most important factors in combating “extremism” and “aggressive Islamism” in the North Caucasus, Dzhabrailov said, adding that Kadyrov was fulfilling the political will of his slain father, Akhmad Kadyrov, by taking actions “aimed at peace, creation and the strengthening of the Russian Federation as a unified state.” Akhmad Kadyrov, who was Chechnya’s pro-Moscow president, was assassinated on May 9, 2004. It should be noted that Umar Dzhabrailov’s brother, Khusein, was recently made vice-premier of the Chechen government.

Interfax reported that just before the start of the Congress of the Assembly of Chechen Peoples, which was held in Grozny on October 31, Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, asked by journalists about the possibility of Kadyrov assuming the republic’s presidency, answered: “Why move Kadyrov into the presidency at the congress? He long ago became the president of the Chechen republic in the hearts of the people. He has defined his position through his deeds.” Abdurakhmanov also said that the “issues raised by the first congress of the Assembly, which took place in 2002 under the leadership of Akhmad Kadyrov, have been completely resolved…The power bodies have been formed, the constitution adopted, the war ended. Today we want to continue the policy of Akhmad Kadyrov and support the policy of Ramzan Kadyrov.”

Yet despite the ongoing agitation by Kadyrov’s allies in favor of him assuming the presidency, Alkhanov did not step down during the Congress of the Assembly of Chechen Peoples, as some observers had expected. In addition, Kadyrov did not appear at the congress in person, instead sending it a congratulatory telegram. Kadyrov has insisted on several occasions that he is not ready for presidential responsibilities despite having reached the legal age to assume the presidency, but some observers believe that these claims are little more than PR and less than sincere (Chechnya Weekly, November 2).

Still, some observers continue to say that Ramzan Kadyrov is unlikely to assume the Chechen presidency anytime soon. In a piece posted by the website on October 7, Svetlana Samoilova wrote that Kadyrov’s allies had planned on Alu Alkhanov announcing his resignation at the October 31 congress, which would have presented the Kremlin with a fait accompli and forced it to “legalize” Kadyrov’s status as head of the republic. The Kremlin, however, apparently had other plans. “It is obvious that the Kremlin is not in a hurry to bring Ramzan Kadyrov to full-fledged power in the republic, despite the fact that the federal center has placed its fundamental hopes in him as its main buttress in the republic (the weak Alkhanov cannot be such a buttress),” Samoilova wrote. “It is possible that a decision concerning Kadyrov will be made after the presidential elections in Russia: Chechnya is viewed as a region with heightened political risks, and the presence of at least a nominal break of power that creates a minimal balance of forces might, in the Kremlin’s view, make it possible to maintain a more stable situation in the republic in the event of force majeure circumstances at the federal level.”

Kavkazky Uzel reported on November 8 that there had been mixed responses inside Chechnya to Umar Dzhabrailov’s call for President Alkhanov to yield his post to Ramzan Kadyrov. Alkhanov’s press secretary, Said-Magomed Isaraev, told Ekho Moskvy that the president would not step down to make way for Kadyrov. “Alu Alkhanov was elected to a four-year term in a popular vote and will carry out his duties as long as he has the trust of the Chechen people,” Isaraev told the radio station.

Kavkazky Uzel quoted a 38-year-old Grozny resident, Salambek Saidov, as saying: “Basically, there is nothing sensational in Dzhabrailov’s statement. That Ramzan Kadyrov will occupy the post of president after he reaches the age of 30 has been talked about in the republic for a long time. Some even say that Kadyrov’s team put Alkhanov into that post having received guarantees that when Ramzan reaches the ‘presidential age,’ Alu would step down…Alu Alkhanov plays the role of [a figurehead] in Chechnya, but Ramzan Kadyrov runs everything. And his appointment to the post of president will merely confirm the actual state of affairs. However, this could lead to a serious conflict between the kadyrovtsy and the alkhanovtsy.”

A professor at one of Grozny’s colleges, who identified himself only as Usman, told Kavkazky Uzel: “I don’t think it is coincidental that Umar Dzhabrailov brought up the subject of a Kadyrov presidency just now. His brother [Khusein Dzhabrailov] was recently appointed vice-premier of the Chechen government. If Dzhabrailov really becomes president, the younger Dzhabrailov has every chance to get the post of chairman of the government [prime minister]. I see in this, above all, sober calculation. But I would not advise anyone to change the state of affairs now. Alkhanov ought to finish his term.”

Another Grozny resident, a 60-year-old identified only as Yakhya, told Kavkazky Uzel: “For me it is absolutely unimportant who will be serving as president. Although everybody says that Kadyrov does everything. All the same, nothing reaches the ordinary people, whoever’s at the top. The most important thing is that there is no longer war here and that the people can live quietly. Although if you believe what people say, Ramzan Kadyrov is kind of doing something, in contrast to Alu Alkhanov. But if they now start to sort out which one of them is the main one, this could lead to serious clashes, because armed people stand behind both of them – although Kadyrov undoubtedly has much more power.”