Baku, February 5 – In response to Ingush President Murat Zyazikov’s machinations that make the upcoming vote to select the republic parliament a farce, the opposition is organizing elections via the teips, the traditional religio-clannic subdivisions of the nation, to “an alternative Popular Assembly.”
And while organizers say that their action is designed to force Zyazikov to allow a real vote in March for the “official” legislative assembly rather than challenge his government directly, both Zyazikov’s track record and the way in which the alternative body is being selected could lead to a period of dual power in Ingushetia.
That in turn would present Moscow with the greatest challenge to its control of the North Caucasus since the Chechen declaration of independence and force the Russian government either to try to suppress the alternative by force, something it may not be able to do, or sacrifice Zyazikov, a move that could lead the opposition to demand even more.
According to a report on Ingushetiya.ru on Sunday night, the opposition to Zyazikov, which now includes a significant portion of the Ingush people, has concluded that Vladimir Putin’s handpicked man has taken steps that render the March 2nd elections meaningless (http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/13172.html).
In recent weeks, he and his brother Rashid, who are both members of United Russia, have conducted negotiations with all the major parties, including those like the Communists and the Liberal Democrats which are “formally” opposed to him, and pre-determined exactly how many seats in the republic legislature.
And Zyazikov, whose falsification of the December Duma vote prompted Ingush activists to organize their highly successful “I didn’t vote” campaign, clearly intends to make sure that no group that is not prepared to go along with these arrangements will be represented in his legislature.
In the hope that they can force Zyazikov to back down either directly or by attracting Moscow’s attention to the ways in which he is destabilizing things by his actions, members of the opposition have therefore decided to create their own “alternative” assembly and elect members to it.
And the elections to it are being conducted within the teips, the basic cells of Ingush society. Sometimes translated as “clan” and sometimes as “Sufi order,” the teips are a combination of the two, something that makes them a central part of the identity of most Ingush and that no government has been able to break.
That means that most Ingush will consider elections conducted within the teips as inherently more legitimate than those arranged on other lines, especially when there is so much fraud in the latter as there has been under Zyazikov in the past and is likely to be in the upcoming vote as well.
The first such vote took place in the Aushev teip, which selected Magomet-Sali Aushev, who currently serves in the official legislature, as its representative to the “alternative” assembly. And elections will take place in the Yevloyev, Kartoyev and Ozdoyev teips in the near future.
One of the members of the Kartoyev teip told Ingushetiya.ru that his teip was proceeding cautiously: “We will form the alternative Popular Assembly of Ingushetia,” he said, “and will recognize only it [as legitimate] if the powers that be somehow do not include our deputies in the Parliament.”
Given that Zyazikov shows no sign of backing away from his pseudo-elections, the website reported, few members of these and other teips will participate in the March elections and fewer still “will recognize the legitimacy of the new composition of [Zyazikov’s pocket] Popular Assembly.”
And they are unlikely to change their views given statements by pro-Zyazikov officials that reports about the formation of this alternative assembly are simply “a provocation” by the “semi-bandit” website Ingushetiya.ru against Zyazikov and his government (http://www.ingushetiya.ru/news/13188.html).
Having made these charges, Musa Kostoyev, the parliament’s press spokesman challenged a Sobkor.ru journalist to name “even one region” in Russia where elections are “honest.” Having received a negative response, Kostoyev said that there was therefore no reason to “pay attention” to complaints in Ingushetia.
“If [the backers of this alternative assembly] find a building, then what will they be able to do?” he asked. After all, they cannot possibly govern because unlike Zyazikov, this group lacks the institutions of power that really matter - jails, prosecutors and judges ready to do their will.