Sunday, August 1, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Imams Control Voting in Highland Daghestan, Political Scientist Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 1 – The authority of local Muslim leaders is so great in some villages in Daghestan that they can determine how all the members of the entire village will cast their votes, a situation that makes the struggle for influence over them between Moscow and radical groups even more important, according to a member of the Russian Social Chamber.
In an address to the Dombai forum in Karachayevo-Cherkessia last week, Ruslan Kurbanov, a political scientist who serves on the Social Chamber’s working group for the development of public dialogue and the institutions of civil society in the Caucasus, provided an example of the authority imams have (
According to Kurbanov, in one Daghestani village, “the opinion of one religious leader was sufficient to determine which candidate people would vote for.” All those taking part in the election voted as the imam instructed except for one, the political scientist noted. The exception was a militiaman “from a neighboring village who was out of the loop” concerning the situation.
How widespread this pattern of influence is in Daghestan is unclear, let alone how far it extends beyond that most Islamic republic of the Russian Federation. But even if it is true in a few places, it is certain to be viewed by many Russians as an indication that the struggle for the North Caucasus is increasingly going to be a struggle over the imams and mullahs there.
In other comments, Kurbanov said corruption and “the irresponsibility of bureaucrats” are the major causes of the problems of the problems of the North Caucasus. “Until everyone occupying this or that post sacrifices his political and economic interests, ceases to steal and thinks about the people rather than himself … blood will continue to flow here.”
According to the political scientist, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “is well informed about what is taking place in the region.” That means there is “a chance” for the resolution of its problems. “However,” he added, “not everyone in Moscow is interested in stability in the North Caucasus.”
There are people there, he said, “who very much want stability and calm in the region, but there are also those who having fulfilled orders from abroad are striving to push the Caucasus into chaos.” As a result, the people and leaders in the region itself must take responsibility for what is occurring there.
“If there will not be a struggle with the corruption, immorality and irresponsibility of many officials in these republics itself, then no Moscow will be able to cope with that situation in which this region finds itself,” Kurbanov said.
Kurbanov’s comments were made to a forum, “Better Together…!” which attracted some 200 young people from the Caucasus and other parts of Russia, who represented “more than 70 social, social-political movements and organizations.” It was sponsored by the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus and the Karachay-Balkar Youth Development Foundation.

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