Chechen Parliament approved on Friday the appointment of Ramzan Kadyrov as the republic’s new president. President Putin appointed Kadyrov to be the president of Chechnya on March 1. Dmitry Kozak, a representative of the Russian president for the Southern Federal District, submitted for Putin’s consideration three candidates for the post of Chechnya’s president a week earlier. Those candidates included Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s acting president; Muslim Khuchiyev, a deputy chief of staff of the Chechen president; and Shakhid Jamaldayaev, a chief of administration of Grozny rural district. Many experts were correct to predict that President Putin would appoint Ramzan Kadyrov.
Putin announced his decision during a meeting with Kadyrov at his residence outside Moscow on Thursday. “I expect that you do your best to continue Chechnya’s rehabilitation at the same pace if your appointment is approved by Parliament of the republic,” Putin said during the meeting. “It’s important that the people of Chechnya feel more secure. Every Chechnya’s resident should be motivated to develop his own republic and strengthen the Russian Federation,” Putin added. “The people of Chechnya wish to be part of Russia, they wish to live in peace with other peoples,” Kadyrov said in response. “I will make every effort to continue the policies pursued by my father and yourself so that the citizens of Chechnya may live decently and in a secure environment. I will step up the efforts to eliminate terrorism and Wahhabism in the republic. I see my appointment as a great responsibility before the Almighty, the Chechen people and the Russian president. I will try to live up to the trust you have in me,” Kadyrov said. “I’m counting on you to do so,” Putin replied.
Putin called directly on the members of Chechen Parliament to approve Karyrov’s candidacy. In fact, he did not have to make any recommendations. The point is that in recent years Chechnya’s political system and its Parliament in particular have been deliberately adjusted to the transfer of power to Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of Akhmad Kadyrov. “I don’t have any doubts that every deputy will vote for Kadyrov,” said Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, the speaker of the lower house of Chechen Parliament, in an interview on Thursday. “My confidence is based on objective data relating to Kadyrov’s activity in the capacity of the head of the Chechen government,” Abdurakhmanov added.
There is a small technical problem with regard to Kadyrov’s appointment. Under the republic’s Constitution, the president of Chechnya is to be elected by a general vote. Only a constitutional assembly is empowered to substitute an election for the endorsement of the republic’s Parliament. Parliament passed a law on the constitutional assembly last year yet the assembly never convened. The experts who pointed out the problem even argue that the latter could be used by the Kremlin as an additional means for holding sway over the new president. The Kremlin could remind the new Chechen leader of the irregularities regarding his appointment if need be. However, the powers that be in Grozny are confident that all the problems will be resolved by enacting ex post facto amendments to the republic’s Constitution. This time the officials are making use of one of the Constitution’s norm, which stipulates that the federal laws have priority over the republican ones. “There are no legal obstacles with regard to the approval of Ramzan Kadyrov’s candidacy,” said Muslim Khuchiyev, Kadyrov’s deputy chief of staff and his competitor on Kozak’s list of presidential candidates.
Ramzan Kadyrov is the first regional leader in Russia’s modern history who actually receives power as an heir. He is the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, a mufti of the breakaway Chechnya, the one who pledged allegiance to the Russians during the second Chechen war. Akhmad Kadyrov was elected president of Chechnya in October 2003. But his presidency lasted a mere seven months. Akhmad Kadyrov was killed in a terrorist attack on May 2004.
Shortly after the killing of Akhmad Kadyrov, a group of his supporters came up with an idea of installing his son Ramzan as Chechnya’s next president. However, the son was too young to succeed his father as president under the republic’s Constitution, which sets an age minimum of 30. Ramzan Kadyrov was only 27 at the time. Alu Alkhanov, former head of the republic’s Ministry of the Interior, was elected “president regent” under the circumstances.
Some federal politicians viewed Alkhanov, a police general and expert in the Russian law, as a guarantee of the law and order in Chechnya. However, it was an open secret in Chechnya that the new president would hold his office only until Ramzan reached 30. Alkhanov turned out to be too law-abiding to cement his position. He spent most of his time outside Chechnya, had very few supporters among his administration. He was not popular with the security forces either. Alkhanov’s invariably sad looks and his strange suggestion to rename Chechnya to improve the region’s image are the only things one may remember about him in the future. Besides, he stepped down while being alive, a rare case for the Chechen presidents so far.
Ramzan Kadyrov became a power prime minister of Chechnya following the assassination of his father. The circumstance enabled him to get control over the republic’s law-enforcement agencies. Staff officers in Chechnya’s law-enforcement agencies were largely replaced by former rebels who surrendered against the personal guarantees offered first by Akhmad Kadyrov, and then by his son. Ramzan became a security advisor to Dmitry Kozak in October 2004. He also became the head of Chechnya’s branch of the pro-Kremlin party United Russia in the summer of 2005. He became prime minister of the republic in March 2006. He is the first Chechen to have held the office of the republic’s prime minister since Aslan Maskhadov’s time.
Ramzan Kadyrov has scored some success while serving in the capacity of prime minister. Nearly all rebels switched over to his side. The restoration program of Grozny had been apparently stalled for five years. Kadyrov managed to get it under way at last. It is assumed that the energetic and tough prime minister found a way of dealing with the corrupt officials in the Chechen government. He is said to have drawn funds from the Chechens living outside the region. He is also said to have invested some of his own money in the restoration effort. It is a widely known fact that Ramzan Kadyrov, a police officer in the rank of captain, is one of the richest men in the Northern Caucasus. The Chechens initially felt nothing but fear toward Kadyrov whose security forces had inflicted harm on many people. Subsequently, the overall attitude changed, and Kadyrov began to enjoy more support and respect. At the same time, the people in Chechnya began to display an apparent fear to express opinions on the “leader of the nation” whose birthday was declared a national holiday.
Chechnya would have had its new president after Russia had elected its new president if Alu Alkhanov had lasted for the entire term of his presidency. It is rather doubtful that a new Russian leader would have had such a benevolent attitude toward Ramzan Kadyrov as President Putin does. Speculation relating to Alkhanov’s premature resignation went over the top in January and February. The situation might have evolved into a conflict. President Putin apparently made up his mind to nip a conflict in the bud: he sided with the strongman and fired Alkhanov on February 15.
Some analysts interpreted the move as a defeat of the Kremlin because Alkhanov, a certified supporter of the central authorities, appeared to be more controllable. But it was no use in keeping control over a figure which could not control anything. On the other hand, the federal authorities built an ideal model of regional policy in Chechnya by getting rid of Alkhanov. A regional leader reports directly to the president of Russia. He is authorized to do whatever he wants in his province, including the employment of rebels for local law-enforcement agencies.
The above unprecedented domestic independence aside, Chechnya is deprived of access to the only lucrative sector of its economy i.e. the legal oil production in the republic is controlled by the federal government represented by Rosneft, a state-controlled company. However, Ramzan Kadyrov has already announced his intentions to review the existing oil revenues distribution pattern for the benefit of his republic.
The head of the Fund of Effective Politics Gleb Pavlovsky confirmed that Ramzan Kadyrov was an ideal president of an ideal region. “The appointment is a symbolic and political ending of the war in Chechnya, which Russia waged in its own territory for the recognition of itself, the war which Russia won. Today’s Chechnya fits in as a part of the federation even more than some other parts of Russia do, and it acts as a part of the federation. This is an incredible result. In 2000, most politicians ruled out the possibility of achieving such a result. It seems to me that Ramzan Kadyrov deserves his position a lot more than some of the Russian governors deserve theirs,” Pavlovsky said.
Sergei Markov, another pro-Kremlin political scientist, said Thursday that “Kadyrov has the potential for 40 years but he has to work a lot without making mistakes if he wants to succeed.” All in all, the political fate of Ramzan Kadyrov is still closely connected to the benevolence of Vladimir Putin. Therefore, we can make a prediction about his fate only up to the spring of 2008.
Translated by Guerman Grachev