29 December 2009, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 21-27

Cancellation of Derbent Mayor election; heavy consequences of blowing up the Memorial of Glory in Kutaisi for the foreign and home policy of the official Tbilisi; municipal elections in Azerbaijan, which caused negative international reaction, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of December 21-27 in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Dagestan to re-elect Derbent Mayor

On December 23, the Supreme Court of Dagestan upheld the decision of the City Court of Derbent to nullify the election of the Mayor of the city of Derbent that took place on October 11.

According to the information of the City Court, the list of violations looks as follows: illegal refusal to register candidates; pressure on them to recall their nominations; appointment of Kaziahmedov's relatives as members of electoral commissions; deprivation of more than 20,000 out of 63,000 voters on the list of their chance to vote; blocking of polling stations by militiamen and application of violence by them to members of precinct electoral commissions (PECs) and voters; massive throw-in of faked ballot papers into ballot-boxes; vote tabulation in the absence of PEC members with deciding votes and observers; and illegal issuance of ballot papers for early voting.

Magomed Dibirov, Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Dagestan, said that the decision of the Supreme Court would be appealed against, while one of the losing candidates for the post of Derbent Mayor - former public prosecutor of Dagestan and now the head of the Suleiman-Stalskiy District Imam Yaraliev - expressed his satisfaction with the verdict.

On December 24, when President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev summed up the year in his interview to the top managers of three Russian TV channels, he noted that at the country's regional elections held on October 11 "the most serious complications were in Derbent." He promised then that Derbent would hold re-election.

On December 25, a group of Dagestan State Duma deputies said that they had sent an official letter to General Public Prosecutor of Russia Yuri Chaika, asking him to take measures "armed regiments under command of state officials." The letter dealt with violations election of the head of the municipal formation "City District Derbent". In the opinion of Nadira Isaeva, editor-in-chief of the Dagestan-based edition "Chernovik" (Blueprint), the letter is aimed against Mukhu Aliev. However, some deputies confessed to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, on conditions of anonymity, that the letter was never sent.

Let us note here that, in the opinion of experts, the scandal around the election in Derbent is part of the conflict around appointment of the new head of Dagestan.

"Everybody is in anticipation of who will be appointed the head of the republic. If it isn't Mukhu Aliev, most likely, the Derbent election case will stop with that. If Aliev is reappointed, then, the CEC, aiming to demonstrate its loyalty, will go on with this case," Magomed Khanmagomedov, an observer of the "Chernovik", believes.

The Supreme Court was keen to perceive "Dmitri Medvedev's signal who said at the congress of the 'Edinaya Rossiya' (United Russia) Party that someone in the regions had mixed up elections with administrative resources. Russian President said that such figures will be got rid of," said Zubairu Zubairuev, head of the radio station "Echo Moskvy in Makhachkala".

Meanwhile, the Russian press is active in discussing chances of the runners for the post of the head of the republic.

Let us remind you that the list of candidates for the post of President of Dagestan, approved by Russian President on December 6, includes the incumbent President Mukhu Aliev, Vice-Premier Magomed Abdullaev, adviser of the chairman of the Council of Federation Magomed Magomedov, deputy of the National Assembly of the Republic of Dagestan and son of the former head of the republic Magomedali Magomedov Magomedsalam Magomedov, and the head of Department of the Federal Exchequer for Dagestan Saigidgusein Magomedov.

Under the version of the "Polit.Ru", Magomed Abdullaev can be viewed as the favourite in the race. He knows Dmitri Medvedev since late 1990s, when Abdullaev worked at the department of theory of law and state of the St Petersburg University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. "The personal contact with the President is a strong argument for the potential heads of the region. Mr Abdullaev is referenced as a brilliant lawyer, who has made a nice academic career; the law for him is above any political reasons," writes the edition.

On the contrary, the chances of the incumbent President of the republic Mukhu Aliev are regarded to be low. Among his defeats are the conflict around the failed appointment of Vladimir Radchenko to the post of the republic's tax service and the scandalous election in Derbent. This is stated in the article published by the "NEWSru.com".

In any case, the new President of Dagestan will face three main problems in need of prompt addressing: Wahhabites, who have tolled both the budget and businesses; corrupt bureaucrats; and relations with President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, as the "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" writes. Under the version of this edition, in case of a weak President, "pieces of Dagestan" will fall off in favour of Chechnya.

Dmitri Muratov, editor-in-chief of the "Novaya Gazeta", believes that the choice by President of Russia of his candidate to the post of the head of Dagestan will be indicative not only for Northern Caucasus but also for Russia as a whole. In Mr Muratov's opinion, now Dagestan sees a clash of mafia clans. Should Medvedev appoint a prot?g? of local clans, it will mean only one thing: money is again making politics, said the editor.

Blowing up Memorial of Glory in Kutaisi: political echo

Georgia continues investigating the explosion on December 19 of the Memorial of Glory in the city of Kutaisi, when a girl of 8 and her mother were killed. Prosecutors are unanimous in the opinion that the main mistake of the blasters was the small height of the ground embankment around the memorial, which should have absorbed the blast wave and splinters. It is still unknown who gave the order to move the date of blowing up the memorial from December 21 to December 19. The authorities of Georgia also say nothing whether they had been warned that the explosion was not duly prepared and about possible consequences.

On December 21, the Tbilisi Court decided to put Avtandil Darsavelidze, a suspect in the explosion case and technical director of the "Sakpetkmretsvi" company, for two months into pre-trial custody.  According to the spokesman of the Prosecutor's Office, Darsavelidze, detained on December 20, was directly responsible for safety during dismantling the monument. During the explosion the safety rules were flagrantly violated.

On December 23, the Kutaisi City Court passed a verdict to apply a two-month pre-trial arrest to Elgudzhi Gadabadze, Director General of "Sakpetkmretsvi"; under the same case, the chief engineer of the company and the engineer who was in charge of the explosion were also arrested.

Meanwhile the opposition blames President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili for destruction of the memorial and death of people. President of Georgia believes that the tragedy in Kutaisi "was a result of human stupidity, incompetence and disorganization" and regrets about politicization of the explosion of the Memorial of Glory.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia characterized the destruction of the memorial as blasphemy and act of state vandalism. In its turn, its Georgian counterpart said that the Russian MFA has "a nasty habit to interfere with home affairs of other countries."

In Moscow, on December 21, activists of the "Left-Wing Front" held a non-sanctioned protest action near the building of Georgia's representative office in Russia. None of the demonstrators was detained. The protesters unfolded a poster "Shame to vandals!", lit fires, scanned slogans against the authorities of Georgia and burnt a portrait of President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili.

On December 24, in the Russian capital, activists of the Movement "Senior Generation" held pickets at the US embassy and the building of the EU Commission. The tried to draw attention of foreign politicians to the policy of Georgian leaders aimed at "revision of our common history."

On December 25, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov visited the Poklonnaya Mount to personally choose the place for restored Memorial of Glory.

On his part, President of Georgia expressed his bewilderment that Russia had so painfully reacted to demolition of the Memorial of Glory but gave no response to renaming of the settlement in Abkhazia, which had been named in honour of the only Georgian WWII General - Leselidze, who was in command of the Kerch Corps.

Municipal elections in Azerbaijan treated as restricted and undemocratic

In the evening on December 23, Azerbaijan completed its municipal elections with participation, according to the national Central Electoral Commission (CEC), 1,462,070 voters or 31.86 percent of the total enlisted. The CEC promises to announce official totals within 30 days. The opposition finds this figure of voter turnout highly exaggerated.

The elections were accompanied by rough violations of the law and, consequently, cannot be regarded as free, democratic and fair, runs the initial statement of the Centre for Election Monitoring and Training Democracy on the results of monitoring.

The public association "Republican Alternative" (REAL) has stated that by the scale of falsifications the December 23 municipal elections had no differences from previous elections in the country.

Typical violations at the elections were in the so-called "roundabouts" - organization of multiple voting by same groups at different polling stations; throwing-in packs of ballot papers into ballot-boxes; illegal intrusion of policemen into polling stations, etc.

The municipal elections have demonstrated still unsatisfactory condition of local democracy in Azerbaijan, and, as a whole, weakness of local-government institutions in this country - this was the conclusion of the Monitoring Mission of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE).

The CEC's press service expressed its disagreement with the estimate of the CLRAE Mission and stated that "the election campaign and the voting day passed, basically, according to requirements of the law; and there were no complaints on essential violations of the procedure."

Ali Ahmedov, deputy chair of the party in power "Eni Azerbaijan", also rejected any violation assertions. According to his version, elections passed "democratically, freely, and in the conditions of equal opportunities and transparency." He expressed conviction that the vote tabulation would confirm the success of the party in power, which had nominated over 15,500 candidates.

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