“If the federal center supports direct elections, it will improve its positions in Dagestan and Ingushetia”

In late March, heads of regions, representatives of regional legislative assemblies will discuss together with the president the problem of electing or appointing governors. Legislative assemblies will decide whether their heads will be elected or appointed. Meanwhile, some forces insist that in some constituents of the North Caucasus it would be reasonable to maintain the principle of “appointment” of the republic’s heads. Maxim Shevchenko, the head of the working group on development of public dialogue and civil society of the Public Chamber, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the situation in Dagestan and Ingushetia.

–          How did Dagestan react to the appointment of Ramzan Abdulatipov as the acting head of the republic?

–          Differently. The population in Dagestan is a complicated phenomenon. The Dargins didn’t like that a Dargin left power, while many Avars were glad to see an Avar in power. It is a significant question for Dagestan. At the same time Abdulatipov possesses certain mental features. He speaks in a certain manner, and Dagestan doesn’t get used to his manner of speaking and making rather bold statements. At the moment he brings a cheerful show to Dagestan. It is being discussed by whole Dagestan. There are opponents and supporters. But the point is not in the populations. In Dagestan the point is the clan structure – what clans are supporters, and what clans are opponents. People will accept any person, and it doesn’t matter whether he is an Avar, Dargin, Lezgin, Kumayk, or Russian. People in Dagestan missed any statehood so much – a state instead of a criminal gang which tears the republic apart under the name of the state. Any person who would place the law higher than personal and corruption relations will be supported by everyone: the Avars, the Dargins, the Kumyks, the Lezgins, the Tats, and so on. Abdulatipov states that he will do it. We will see whether he will manage to do it.

–          So how did clans react?

–          Cautiously. Abdulatipov didn’t meet with powerful mayors of Dagestan right after his appointment, for example, Said Amirov (Makhachkala’s mayor, editor’s note), Saigidpasha Umakhanov (Khasavyurt’s mayor, editor’s note). As far as I know Dagestan, I am sure there were attempts of bribery. Of course, Abdulatipov’s government has people who have conflicts in the past, for example, Abusupyan Kharkharov (the deputy chairman of the Dagestani government, editor’s note). Dagestan has noted this, and many people didn’t like it. Everybody knows about the conflict between Magomed Gadzhiyev (MP from United Russia, editor’s note) and Kharkharov over the Makhachkala port. They discuss who is a more effective manager – Gadzhiyev or Kharkharov. Of course, they don’t like each other.

Presence of conflictive people in the government means that this government is more federal. The situation enables the federal center to interfere with Dagestan affairs actively. It is confirmed by the appointment of a Russian (Alexander Ermoshkin, editor’s note) to the position of Dagestan’s envoy in Moscow. He is thought to be a smart person. I haven’t met him yet. At least he is not an ethnic envoy. It is a political figure in the regime of political administration.

The point is not in Abdulatipov as a person, but in whether he is a real protégé if the federal center, and in what extent the federal center decided to establish order in Dagestan. I can say if the federal center decides to establish order, rather than balance between powerful clans, people of Dagestan will certainly support this. It will improve positions of the federal power and the Russian state. I have no doubts about this.

–          In September elections of heads of Ingushetia and Dagestan should take place. Do you think the population is ready for the elections?

–          Any other variant will put legitimacy of the power at risk. If some person is appointed by the center again, it will lead to appearance of clans, conflicting groups, and escalation of violence and terrorism. I am absolutely sure. Yes, there will be problems during the elections. If the elections take place, they will be difficult, there will be attempts to bribe electorate, falsify ballots, overstating of voting turnout or its absence – it is a peculiarity of the regions. But if we manage to overcome this difficult period, there will be no interethnic conflicts. Moreover, I think there will be two or three candidates who represent various groups of people, and the population will accept any victory, if voting is fair. The victory will be a much greater victory for the federal center than appointment of some person. Because in this case the person will get legitimacy. If the federal center supports direct elections, it will improve its positions in Dagestan and Ingushetia. If it appoints anyone, it will improve the conflict between various groups of influence in these republics. Of course it will cause general tension in the political and terrorist situation.

–          Do you think Yevkurov has any chance of winning the elections?

–          It is difficult to say. What is strange if an officer, a person who has done so much for the republic wins again? Yes, he has a lot of opponents, those who don’t like him, and serious rivals. However, the only his real serious rival, in my opinion, is Ruslan Aushev, but he wouldn’t come to the elections, I believe. So, Yevkurov has all chances to win.

Interview by Maria Sidelnikova. Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza