Chechnya: Referendum Over, What is Next? - 2 April, 2003

In a few days, following the publication of the Chechen constitution in the local press and its coming into effect, the life in the republic is supposed to change. People will elect their president and parliament and will start building up new relations with Moscow.

Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Head of the (now transitional) Chechen Administration Akhmad Kadyrov met to discuss the republic's immediate future.

It has been more or less settled that the presidential election will be held not earlier than six months after the referendum and is expected to coincide with the federal elections to the State Duma scheduled for December 2003, Head of the Central Election Commission Alexander Veshnyakov believes. As to a new Chechen Parliament, the republic will vote for it at least three months after the presidential election. The event is likely to coincide with the federal presidential election in March 2004. It is a tentative scenario, but the time-scale is more or less definite.

There are still questions about Chechnya's relations with the federal centre, namely their structure.

Moscow has lately been cancelling agreements on sharing powers and terms of reference with its regions signed in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, President Putin proposed signing such an agreement with Chechnya.

The Kremlin made it clear that the prospective agreement must comply with the Russian Constitution and a power-sharing package of bills concerning the federal centre and its regions, which is being drafted by Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Kozak.

Vladimir Putin spoke on the nature of the agreement with Akhmad Kadyrov. The agreement "should guarantee the republic's vigorous development and meet the interests of the Chechen population," the President said. Besides, the agreement must also grant greater autonomy to the Republic of Chechnya, Putin pledged.

But the matter is more complicated than it seems. Apart from meeting the legally competent demands of the current Chechen Administration, the Kremlin needs an agreement which would answer the expectations of the Chechen population, including rural and urban residents as well as displaced citizens.

The Chechen executive authorities led by Kadyrov are now in full control of the republic's personnel policy, Kremlin sources report. Besides, they are taking progressive efforts to ease security measures in Chechnya.

At the same time, the old-time tensions between the Chechen leader and certain regional authorities must also be taken into account as they can divide Chechnya over the agreement.

At present, Kadyrov is Chechnya's key presidential candidate. If he wins, he may submit his own draft agreement ahead of the parliamentary elections in the republic.

On the one hand, being a pro-Moscow presidential candidate, Kadyrov enjoys its full confidence. But on the other hand, key Kremlin figures prefer to say, "Chechen people themselves will elect their President." It is not surprising. If Moscow seeks to restore peace in Chechnya then it needs a capable and authoritative candidate who will enjoy public confidence.

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