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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grozny Plans Political Changes

APKadyrov, right, walking with Dzhabrailov at his 30th birthday party on Oct. 5.
GROZNY -- Authorities in Chechnya are planning a referendum on a new regional constitution that would change the way the president and legislature are elected, news reports said Friday.

Regional parliament Speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov said a date for the referendum would be set once the draft was ready, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported. He did not say how it would change the rules for the presidential elections, but the move could pave the way for Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov to replace the incumbent regional president, Alu Alkhanov.

Kadyrov has been hailed for efforts to rebuild the mostly Muslim region devastated by more than one decade of separatist fighting, but has been tainted by widespread accusations of abuses against civilians, including torture and killing, by security forces under his control.

The prime minister, who has been the focus of a mounting personality cult in the region, is the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, the Moscow-backed Chechen president who was assassinated in a bomb blast in May 2004.

Abdurakhmanov heaped praise on Kadyrov but refused to discuss Kadyrov's chances for becoming the president.

"Today Ramzan Kadyrov is solving historic tasks of reviving the republic," he told reporters.

Abdurakhmanov also said the draft constitution envisaged forming a unicameral legislature and cutting the number of lawmakers.

Last week, Kadyrov said he alone could bring order to the region, reinforcing widespread speculation that he plans to take over the top job to seal his grip on power.

"In Chechnya, there is only one person who can bring order to this republic; that person is me. Only I can bring order," Kadyrov said in an interview late last Wednesday in the eastern city of Gudermes.

"I will do everything to ensure that things return to normal here and that there is no place for renegades," he said.

On Wednesday, the Chechen representative in the Federation Council, Umar Dzhabrailov, called for an early presidential vote with the aim of electing Kadyrov as regional president.

Kadyrov's office issued a statement in which he dismissed Dhzabrailov's remarks as a "personal initiative," but his comment failed to dampen widespread speculation that the prime minister intends to become president before incumbent Alu Alkhanov's term ends in 2008.

Speculation about Chechnya's political future comes amid ongoing violence in the region.

A rebel land mine struck an armored vehicle near the village of Berkart-Yurt, on the outskirts of Grozny, late Friday, a statement issued by the Interior Ministry said.

The blast wounded two soldiers and damaged the armored vehicle, the statement said.