Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Three Out of Four Dagestanis Say Their Republic Government is Corrupt, Ineffective

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 16 – The people of Dagestan, one of the North Caucasus republics that Moscow commentators ever more frequently are describing as “a hot spot,” overwhelmingly view officials there as corrupt, the legal and political system as ineffectual, and the role of clan ties rather than law as high.
Today, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), a survey center known for its close ties to the Kremlin, released the results of a survey of 1000 Daghestanis that it conducted last week concerning how they view the political system there (wciom.ru/novosti/press-vypuski/press-vypusk/single/10703.html).
The results, which VTsIOM said have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent, suggest that the Moscow-backed regime in Makhachkala is increasingly illegitimate in the eyes of the people there and that Dagestan could follow Ingushetia as a place where the institutions of the state may cease to function.
Among the key findings of this survey are the following:

 Seventy-seven percent of Daghestanis said that the level of corruption in their republic is high or very high, with only one in six saying that it was “average” for Russia, three percent saying it was low, and “only one percent that there is no corruption there at all.”

 Fifty-seven percent of the sample said that law enforcement bodies there worked poorly, despite the fact that 65 percent said there is now a great amount of crime in Dagestan.

 “The overwhelming majority of Daghestanis (80 percent) commented,” VTsIOM reported, “that they always or frequently encountered requests for bribes when they appealed to the organs of state power (28 percent – ‘always,’ 52 percent – ‘often,’ 12 percent – ‘rarely,’ and eight percent – ‘never’).”

 Seventy percent of those sampled blamed the high level of corruption on “the ineffectiveness of the powers that be in the republic,” with 34 percent pointing to the greed and amorality of officials there and another 36 percent the inability or unwillingness of officials to act and problems with existing legislation.

 And overwhelmingly, the Daghestanis queried by VTsIOM said that they rarely or never encountered officials who were polite, showed respect, and were competent, with the share saying that ranging between 71 and 77 percent.

One poll, of course, is insufficient to permit any final conclusion about where Dagestan may be heading. On the one hand, this survey may have been commissioned by Moscow officials who want to provide the basis for getting rid of the current leadership in Makhachkala as part of President Dmitry Medvedev’s current anti-corruption drive.
Or on the other, the questions contained in it may have been phrased in such a way that Daghestanis, already furious with their government for its failure to provide them with electricity last winter or to protect them from the criminal world, decided they could express their general anger with their responses.
But however that may be, government structures in Dagestan clearly now rest not on popular support but on force alone. And that in turn means that informal groups – clans, ethnic groups, and religious communities – will play an ever larger role in the life of that republic, however many declaration of loyalty to the Kremlin officials in Makachkala continue to make.

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