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A Parliament Built for Kadyrov

The new Chechen parliament, which will be elected Sunday, looks likely to be packed with allies of powerful Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, and their main mandate promises to be to prepare the way for a Kadyrov presidency.

Other local clans and interest groups can expect to be shut out from making any major decisions in the parliament, and ordinary Chechens probably should not count on lawmakers to protect their interests.

"The lawmakers will not be allowed to lobby for any interests but Kadyrov's," said Alexander Cherkasov, a representative of Memorial, the respected human rights organization that has been sharply critical of both Kadyrov and the elections.

"With or without the parliament, Chechnya will still be ruled by the man who wields the biggest gun," he added, referring to Kadyrov.

Eight national parties are running in the elections, and many hastily set up their Chechen branches within the past two months with the backing of Chechen officials. Kadyrov loyalists have taken key posts in many of those branches. In addition, most of the top spots on the parties' electoral lists -- including those of United Russia -- are occupied by regional officials.

A ninth party, the liberal Republican Party, also applied but was rejected over a technicality. Its candidates are running in single-mandate districts.

A recent poll by Chechen authorities found that the pro-Kremlin United Russia party would win the largest share of the vote, with 35 percent, followed by the liberal Yabloko party (10 percent), the Communist Party (10 percent), the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (6 percent), the nationalist Rodina party (4.2 percent) and the liberal Union of Right Forces party (3.2 percent). The other parties received support from 1 percent or less of the 1,000 respondents surveyed by Chechnya's National Politics, Media and Information Ministry, the independent newspaper Chechen Society reported earlier this week.

A separate survey, carried out by an independent think tank, indicated that well over half of Chechens believed that Kadyrov would personally determine the outcome of the elections and that the parliament's main task would be to select the republic's next president -- not to tackle pressing regional problems.

A total of 72 percent said Kadyrov would decide the vote, while 9 percent said President Vladimir Putin would determine it, 2 percent said Chechen President Alu Alkhanov would be behind it, and 2 percent said voters would decide, according to the poll of 1,000 people in Chechnya and 200 people in Chechen diasporas in Ingushetia, Moscow and other regions. The poll was carried out by Chechen-based SK-Strategia in October.

Furthermore, 51 percent said the parliament would not solve pressing problems, while 24 percent said it would. An overwhelming 60 percent said the parliament was needed to approve the candidacy of the next Chechen president.

Since the start of the year, regional leaders are no longer elected but appointed by Putin and then formally confirmed by regional legislatures.

Kadyrov, a son of pro-Moscow Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated last year, is largely believed to be the real power in Chechen politics, and he appears to be in line to become president after he turns 30 on Oct. 5 next year. Under the Chechen Constitution, the president must be at least 30 years old.

Source: The Moscow Times

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