In Chechnya, the Electoral Commission registers anyone who wishes to participate in the parliamentary elections, which resulted in a record number of candidates for parliamentary seats. The majority of registered parties do not have their offices in the republic and are not going to spend money on campaigning. “Spoilers” will help to strengthen the position of the “United Russia” in the republic. And Ramzan Kadyrov will be able to demonstrate that in Chechnya they vote not for the party, but for him, which in turn will allow him to not backtrack on his plans to hold direct voting to elect the head of the republic in 2016.
The parliamentary elections in Chechnya scheduled for September 8, will be the largest in the modern history of the republic in terms of the number of participants: 20 candidates per a parliamentary seat. The elections to the legislature are based on a proportional system.
17 parties presented their lists of candidates, the total number of nominated candidates is 793 for 41 seats. They consider these numbers unprecedented and say that this demonstrates how competitive the elections are.
Among those who will participate there are almost no parties with regional offices in Chechnya.
“Yabloko”, “Civic Platform”, and RPR-PARNAS didn’t even bother to come up with their ballots. “Yabloko” is one of the few parties that has a branch in Chechnya with the membership of about 600 people. “There are too many parties participating in the election. The leader is the “United Russia”, headed by Ramzan Kadyrov, they will get 95% of the vote. The other parties will share the remaining 5%. We decided not to spend our effort on a zero result”, says the chairman of “Yabloko” in Chechnya Kuyrasha Ibragimov.
But enviable determination is demonstrated by the so-called small parties, that emerged in large numbers over the last year, after the procedure of registration with the Ministry of Justice was simplified. Among these parties there is a group that was created with the participation of Andrei Bogdanov, а political consultant. The leader of the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR), once a presidential candidate (in 2008, little-known Bogdanov collected 2 million signatures a few months before the election, and was the only self-nominated candidate registered by the Central Electoral Commission (CEC)). In political quarters he is best known for the fact that in 2005 he denied Mikhail Kasyanov an opportunity to take charge of the DPR, and in 2011 hijacked Mikhail Prokhorov’s “Just Cause”.
Following the liberalization of the law on political parties, he got into a business of selling charters of political parties. He helped the Communist Party of Social Justice, the Social-Democratic Party of Russia, the People’s Party of Russia, and the Union of City Residents to register with the Ministry of Justice.
All of these “Bogdanov’s” parties will participate in the elections in Chechnya. However, any of them not only does not have a local office in the republic, but does not even plan to launch a campaign.
The leader of the Russian People’s Party (PPR) Stanislav Aranovich tops its ballot in Chechnya, but can hardly recall all the regions in which he is running. “We do not have an established office in Chechnya. I run almost everywhere, where they will have elections on September 8, and everywhere I top the party ballots. It is hard to say for sure now, but I’m also running in Togliatti and Ulyanovsk,” Aranovich told “Gazeta.ru.”
According to him the PPR is not going to have a campaign and only uses free media space, including in the press and on local TV to promote its nationwide platform. “There will be no infomercials specifically for Chechnya. We are not going to print campaign materials at our own expense,” says Aranovich. He did not rule, though, that he might stop by in Chechnya and take part in the debates. Aranovich believes that what voters need is to make sure stability and security are maintained.
Victor Militarev, the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Russia, is also not sure whether he tops the party ballot in Chechnya, although on Monday the Electoral Commission announced the registration of the SDPR.
“If we got registered, that means we’ll run there as well. In all the regions where elections will be held on September 8, the party co-chairman Sirazhdin Ramazanov and I are on the ballot. We won’t be able to launch campaigns in all those regions, but we want to see how they react to the name of the party. The social democrats were out of the picture for seven years. We are nothing like the “Just Russia,” Militarev told “Gazeta.ru.”
On July 22, the Chechen Electoral Commission announced the registration of seven parties: the SDPR, the PPR, the CPRF, the DPR, the “Union of City Residents”, the “Home Country” and the “Civil Position”.
Little is known about the “Home Country,” one of the registered parties, except for some bare facts published by the Ministry of Justice, such as the legal address in Moscow, a phone number, etc. By the way, when you call that number, an angry voice answers: “You got a wrong number.” According to the official information the leader of the “Home Country” is Dmitry Isaev, a resident of Moscow.
The “Civil Position” originally registered as a party of “social networks”, is also one of Bogdanov’s projects. The goals and objectives specified in the charter (identical to those under other Bogdanov’s projects), say nothing about the political program. The Chairman, Dmitry Chirov, was unavailable for comment. But the name change confused even the members of the Chechen Electoral Commission, that sometimes mistakenly calls the party the “Civic Platform.”
Oleg Bulaev, who was a member of Bogdanov’s DPR in 2012, and now is in charge of the North Caucasus branch of the the Communist Party, says that the registration of his party was facilitated by Ramzan Kadyrov himself. Two weeks ago Bulaev arrived in Grozny to submit the documents to the Electoral Commission, since the CPRF does not have its representatives in Chechnya. “Walking around the city, I visited Kadyrov’s page in Instagram and wrote to him. Kadyrov called me and asked how the registration was going, and gave me his phone in case we need any help,” says Bulaev.
Vyacheslav Smirnov, the long-standing Bogdanov’s deputy, believes that the Chechen Electoral Commission is not going to turn anyone down. “The Chechen Electoral Commission has never refused to anyone, they even helped some parties to register and even arranged a press conference on the occasion, because some parties would submit documents written on a typewriter. Do you really think that in Chechnya, such a specific region, there care about a difference between the “United Russia” and the “Just Russia?” Chechnya is a region where before putting his name on a ballot a person would ask which ballot he could put his name on. Party affiliation is only a tool,” says Smirnov.
In the Electoral Commission they told “Gazeta.ru” that by Monday they would review and register another 10 parties.
Next in line are such parties as the “Green Party,” the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the “Communists of Russia,” the “Defenders of the Fatherland” and even the two gender specific parties with limited electorate, “Women’s Dialogue” and “For Women of Russia.” The leader of the latter, Galina Havraeva says that in Chechnya the party has about 20 members, and its official representative is Markha Dendieva. Dendieva did not respond to phone calls during the week.
The leaders on top of the “United Russia” ballot, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Prime Minister Abubakar Edelgeriev, and the State Duma deputy Adam Delimhanov, were also unavailable for comment. Kadyrov and Edelgeriev are on vacation, and Demilkhanov’s staff had no information on his whereabouts.
The only available representative of the “United Russia” in Chechnya, the first deputy head of the executive committee Aida Adilgereeva was silent for a second before answering the question on a possible outcome the party hopes to achieve at the upcoming elections. “Maximum,” she said. “The leader of the republic, the leader of the Chechen people tops the regional list of candidates, so we look forward the most votes,” says Adilgereeva.
Seven parties participated in the last parliamentary elections in Chechnya in October 2008: the “United Russia,” the “Just Russia,” the Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party, the “Patriots of Russia,” the Party of Peace and Unity and the “People’s Union”. The parties nominated 345 candidates, nearly half the number for 2013. The “United Russia” won 88.40% of the vote, the runner-up “Just Russia” got only 9.20%, and the rest did not get even 1%. As a result, the “Just Russians” got 4 seats. However one of the winners, Zelimkhan Abubakarov, for some reason, that the “Just Russia” could not explain, is a member of the “United Russia” faction. The faction leader, Sultan Denilhanov refuses to clarify what the party expects this time, and dismisses the spoilers. “We expect a tough fight, because for the first time since the second Chechen war so many parties participate in the elections. But I think that only four parties have real chances, plus, possibly, the “Patriots of Russia,” Denilhanov told “Gazeta.ru.” The “Patriots” have submitted to the Electoral Commission their lists, that include 57 candidates, but in the regional office of the party does not answer the phone.
“If the opposition parties, such as the “Fair Russia” or the “Patriots of Russia”, were rivals and wouldn’t be different from the “”United Russia” in the eyes of the voters, the participation of so many spoilers would not affect the results. But in this case, spoilers will dilute the vote,” says Andrei Buzin, the head of the election monitoring unit of the “Golos,” an election watchdog. The 2013 parliamentary elections may result in the “Just Russia” losing all but one mandate in the representative body.
“According to the law there should be two factions in the parliament, so the party, that came second, whatever the result, should notionally be allocated one seat,” says Alexander Kynev, director of regional programs in the Foundation for Information Policy Development.
Such a shift in the composition of the parliament will not affect the functioning of the legislature. But parliamentary elections will reinforce the leading role of Ramzan Kadyrov in the North Caucasus and persuade Moscow not to abandon its plans to hold the republic leadership election in 2016.
This year in Ingushetia and Dagestan the parliaments opted against direct vote, electing the head of the republic through the parliament. Kadyrov said, that so far the republic does not have plans to give up direct elections. “Today a mature civil society is emerging in the republic, that will elect a worthy leader, and we intend to rigorously respect the choice of the people,” Kadyrov said earlier.
Nowadays the majority of regional leaders choose not to associate their names with the “United Russia,” and many of them run as self-nominated candidates. Kadyrov is trying to do exactly the opposite: he leads the list and helps the party to preserve its majority.