Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Daghestanis in One Region Resign En Masse from Ruling United Russia Party

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 15 – More than 250 Daghestanis have resigned from the United Russia Party and an equal number of the residents of that North Caucasus republic say they are preparing to do so, a possible indication that the ruling party in the Russian Federation may face more serious challenges in non-Russian portions of the country during the upcoming elections.

The Kavkaz-Uzel.ru news portal yesterday reported that Magomed magomedov, a resident of Shodrod had told its journalists that 254 people had quit United Russia and that an equal number were ready to do so in the near future, remarkably large numbers given the size of that district (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/181036/).

Magomedov said that he was among those who had already left the ranks of the party, a step that he said he had taken because the United Russia-backed leadership of Daghestan “does not take into account the opinion of ordinary members of the party” as evidenced by Makhachkala’s refusal to meet the requests of local people about candidates for office.

“We asked the head of Daghestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov and other leaders of the republic and the party. that they include in the list of candidates for deputies to the parliament of Daghestan current legislator Ali Shakhbanov, but,” he said, “no one listened to our opinion.” Instead, Makhachkala selected an “unpopular” figure who has often faced criminal charges.

Ullubiy Erbolatov, the press secretary of the Daghestani branch of United Russia told Kavkaz-Uzel that he was aware of what had occurred. “What has taken place in Botlikh district, the leadership of the party knows. I also know Ali Shakhbanov. He is a very good man, but who will run for the future parliament is a decision of the leadership of the party and the republic.”

“A more detailed response,” he suggested, “could be obtained in the main office of the party.” But when the Kavkaz-Uzel journalists inquired there, they were told that the Daghestani section of United Russia had no comment. The parliamentary elections in that North Caucasus republic will take place on March 13.

The action of the up to 500 United Russia members in the Botlikkh district of Daghestan is intriguing for three reasons. First, it comes in a place which more than most in the Russian Federation not only has been deferential to whatever those above it want but has delivered super majorities for United Russia in the past.

That suggests that this action in Daghestan may be followed by similar moves elsewhere, an indication of growing popular anger at the isolation and high-handedness of United Russia and of the possibility that one or another party may in fact be able to challenge the ruling party successfully in one or more districts.

Second, it suggests that the new leadership of Daghestan may be just as out of touch with public opinion there as was its predecessor, a gap that could provoke new challenges by the population like those which rocked the southern Daghestani city of Derbent a year ago and that forced Makhachkala and Moscow to look for new leaders there.

And third, if Daghestanis feel that they are being shut out of the public political process, it is entirely likely that they will look with more sympathy on those who choose to go into the forests to fight the regime, thereby making a republic which is currently marred by violence near every day even more unsettled.

At the very least, resignations of this kind, more than the high profile departure of prominent actresses in Moscow, are an indication that the governing party and thus the government of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev likely face a more difficult future than many in Russia or elsewhere now assume.

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