Staunton, October 27 – The Moscow media are having a field day with the declaration by Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, speaker of the Chechen parliament, that his republic will deliver more than 100 percent of the vote to the ruling United Russia Party if it should require that to win elections.
Most Russian commentators are treating this story as little more than latest extravagance of the Chechens, following as it does close on the heels of Ramzan Kadyrov’s call for Vladimir Putin to return to the Russian presidency in 2012 and remain in that office forever. But in fact, it has a more serious and sinister side, one that highlights the degradation of Russian elections.
In Soviet times, officials routinely reported that 99.9 percent of the electorate had backed Communist candidates, but even under Stalin, there was a sufficient sense of restraint that no official dared to suggest that he could do the impossible and provide more votes than there were voters.
And in post-Soviet times, while the falsification of election results has been rampant -- especially in the North Caucasus, where the reported percentages have approached Soviet levels -- officials up to now have defended the results as accurate rather than flaunting their obvious ability to provide whatever numbers the powers that be above them might want.
But now, in an action that invites the question “have they no shame?” Abdurakhmanov, according to the Ekho Moskvy report, demonstrated by his remarks that “when one is talking about elections in the Chechen Republic, the laws of mathematics cease to operate,” at least according to the Chechen speaker (echo.msk.ru/news/721620-echo.html).
“If United Russia needs to receive 115 to 120 percent of the votes,” he continued, “we will be able to achieve that result,” at least as long as Ramzan Kadyrov and Vladimir Putin stand at its head. If someone else were there, he said, “no one would vote for it,” yet another indication of what that party in fact is.
Abdurakhmanov equally shameless asserted that “at the present time, there is no corruption in Chechnya. It exists in Moscow and in St. Petersburg but in Chechnya there is simply no one to bribe.” In the future, that will change, he said, once we have reestablished “industry, business and the banking system.”
And the Chechen speaker made his own contribution to the rapidly expanding cult of personality around Ramzan Kadyrov. That Chechen leader, Abdurakhmanov said, is “an outstanding official in the strengthening of Russian statehood” and “the most irreconcilable fighter against terrorism.”
Unless more senior Russian officials denounce Abdurakhmanov’s remarks or even insist on his and his immediate superior’s dismissal, they too will be contributing to rising public cynicism among Russians about elections and indeed all numbers, including those from the just completed census, that the powers that be issue.
Indeed, in many ways, the Chechen parliament speaker’s words represent even more of a challenge to President Dmitry Medvedev’s oft-stated commitment to the rule of law than did Ramzan Kadyrov’s recent panegyric to Putin. And thus whether he intended it or not, Abdurakhmanov by his very shamelessness has posed a challenge to the incumbent president