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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gantamirov Seeks a Chechen Parliament

Bislan Gantamirov has proposed turning Chechnya into a parliamentary republic without a president, an idea that has found wide approval among prominent Chechens.

But there are serious questions about how this could be coordinated with the various existing competing power structures in the republic, especially given the deep divisions within Chechen society.

Gantamirov last month was appointed chief federal inspector dealing with the restoration of Chechnya by the presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev.

The former mayor of Grozny, Gantamirov has long been a rival of Akhmad Kadyrov, who heads the Chechen administration. Chechnya also has a head of government, Stanislav Ilyasov. The last president was Aslan Maskhadov, elected in 1997 as head of a separatist Chechnya, and he remains among the rebel leaders.

"The last 10 years of presidential rule in Chechnya have shown that we don't need a president," Gantamirov said last week in Moscow at his first news conference since his appointment.

The first step, he said, is to draft a Chechen constitution providing for a parliamentary system. He said he will create a working group that will visit Tatarstan to study the deal it struck with Moscow that "gave it economic freedom."

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Dagestan, a neighboring republic ruled by a state council, also will be studied, said Ruslan Martagov, Gantamirov's spokesman.

Elections could be held next spring, Gantamirov said.

Dzhabrail Gakayev, a professor in the Caucasus department of the Russian Academy of Science's Anthropology and Ethnography Institute, said that the idea of a parliamentary system is not new and has been widely discussed.

"Historically, before the Caucasus wars [of the 18th and 19th centuries], Chechnya was ruled by a council of state, by elders," Gakayev said in an interview. "A state council as in Dagestan would be the best form of administration for us."

He said, however, that Gantamirov is not the best person to try to bring this about because he has not proved good at coordinating with others.

Edi Isayev, a spokesman for the Moscow office of Kadyrov's administration, said neither he nor the Moscow office of Ilyasov's government were invited to hear Gantamirov present his plans.

"Let me speak not as Gantamirov's spokesman but as head of Grozny City Hall's information and press department," Martagov said. "For me, both Kadyrov and Ilyasov are absolute aliens.

"Kadyrov is yesterday's enemy who called for shooting every Chechen who cooperated with federal authorities and appealed to every Chechen to shoot 150 Russians each and thus make Chechnya a sovereign republic.

"Now this person is supposed to rule me? Why on Earth? Just because some gang of scoundrels sits in the Kremlin and gets on with the war here? Or this Ilyasov, who came from nowhere? And who knows why he was put around my neck as our prime minister?

In April, the State Duma deputy from Chechnya, Aslanbek Aslakhanov, started to prepare for a congress of Chechen people and complained that Kadyrov's administration refused to help him. In turn, Aslakhanov refused to participate in a similar congress being prepared by Kadyrov. In the end, neither of the congresses took place.

Gantamirov is on the right track, Gakayev said, but Chechnya cannot afford to wait and should work urgently to establish "elements of a parliamentary republic."

"That is what Gantamirov — or some other official — must focus on now. Not wait until some elections next spring that might never happen, but collect the best representatives of the Chechen nation to start an internal dialogue, consolidate healthy energy, and eventually find a consensus in the society."