05 March 2012, 12:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 26-March 4

Election of the President of Russia and a number of municipal elections in the regions of Southern Russia; collapse of a section of a nine-storey apartment block after explosion in Astrakhan; announcement of the final list of presidential candidates in South Ossetia for the March 25 repeated elections; riots in the Guba District of Azerbaijan; cancellation of elections to the City Council of Lermontov, Stavropol Territory, which was sought by hunger-strikers, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of February 27-March 4, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russian presidential election and municipal elections in Southern Russia

The main political event of the week was the election of the president of Russia, which was voted on March 4. By today's morning it was announced that Vladimir Putin has won – after processing of 95% of protocols of the precinct election commissions on the entire territory of the Russian Federation – 64.29% of votes, Gennady Zyuganov – 17.14%, Mikhail Prokhorov – 7.40%, Vladimir Zhirinovsky – 6.25%, and Sergey Mironov – 3.80%.

On the same day, some regions of Southern Russia also held their municipal elections were held. In Astrakhan, they voted at by-elections to the City Duma and elected the Mayor. In Adygea, along with the Russian presidential election, the also elected the heads of four districts: the Maikop, Krasnogvardeisk, Giaginka and Takhtamukay, as well as deputies of local self-governments in several municipal formations. In 12 districts of Dagestan, on March 4, they elected deputies of local legislative assemblies, and in 11 rural communities – deputies of rural assemblies and heads of 17 rural municipal assemblies.

Kabardino-Balkaria also held elections of heads of municipal formations Karasu, Bezengi and Elbrus, and 122 dwelling settlements elected deputies of local self-governments. Karachay-Cherkessia held elections of additional members of the Republic's National Assembly of the fourth convocation in single-member constituencies Nos. 7, 8, 10, 11 and 35, and of local self-governments, in total, 39 election campaigns.

On March 4, residents of the Rostov Region took part in municipal elections at various levels in 14 cities and districts of the region, as well as in by-election of a deputy of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the fourth convocation from the Novoshakhtinsk single-mandate constituency. North Ossetia elected representative bodies of 90 municipal formations out of 111 existing in the republic.

Observers in different regions, including Dagestan, Krasnodar Territory, Astrakhan Region and Kabardino-Balkaria have already reported a number of violations registered at the voting.

Astrakhan: explosion destroys section of multi-storey apartment block – ten casualties

On February 27 in the afternoon, in Astrakhan, nine floors in the second section of the house, located in Nikolai Ostrovsky Street collapsed; 26 people were rescued from the rubble, seven were hospitalized. Already at night, rescuers began finding the casualties – ten in total.

An explosion of domestic gas is considered as the basic version. Investigators believe also that a suicide attempt of one of the tenants could cause the explosion, which then resulted in the collapse of the section. However, the spouse of that man denies his guilt, saying that he could not open the gas valves, as he was bedridden.

The tenants of the collapsed section have already received financial help amounting to 10,000 roubles; the authorities promised to pay one million roubles to each casualty's family. All the tenants of the house have already received orders to move to other homes, located in the outskirts of Astrakhan.

South Ossetia: four candidates admitted to presidential election

On February 29 the Central Election Commission (CEC) of South Ossetia announced the list of presidential candidates at the election to be held on March 25. The post of the president will be chased for by Leonid Tibilov, the former South-Ossetia's KGB chairman; David Sanakoev, the local Ombudsman; Dmitry Medoev, Ambassador of the Republic in the Russian Federation; and Stanislav Kochiev, the leader of the Communist Party of South Ossetia.

Initially, 22 candidates had submitted their documents to the CEC, but three of them recalled their applications. The rest, except the above four, were refused registration for two reasons – discrepancies in documents and failure to pass the linguistic exam. Two of the rejected candidates – Sergey Zasseev and Vice-Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic Yuri Dzitstsoity – disagree with the decision of the CEC.

This will be the repeated presidential election in South Ossetia, appointed by the parliament after the Supreme Court had annulled the election, held on November 27, 2011, because of the admitted violations.

Azerbaijan: executive boss of Guba District lost his office after riots

On March 1, mass riots burst out in the city of Guba, one of the Azerbaijani district capitals. Up to 10,000 residents gathered in front of the building of the executive body of the city demanding dismissal of the district chief executive Rauf Gabibov. The residents were indignant that Gabibov had accused them of "putrefaction and betrayal." In the course of suppressing the riots, 22 people were detained. The action slowed down after their release. During the riots, Abderrashad Vagif-oglu, a reporter of the Internet television "Objective TV", and three policemen were injured.

On March 2, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev signed a decree to dismiss Gabibov from his post. On the same day, the armoured military vehicles were removed from Guba; units of interior troops could be seen in some parts of the city; however, the situation in the streets was calm.

Stavropol Territory: City Council elections in Lermontov cancelled

On March 2, the court satisfied the petition lodged by Deputies of the city of Lermontov, Stavropol Territory, and abolished the early elections to the local City Council, scheduled for March 4, since the dissolution of the council was found legal. The day before, on March 1, after the meeting with Alexander Khloponin, the Russian President's Plenipotentiary in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) the participants of the hunger strike, who had sought cancellation of the elections, decided to stop their protest.

The hunger strike lasted for ten days; it was announced by a few residents of the city after the local CEC refused to register 32 candidates for the City Council out of 122 applicants. By March 1, there were already 38 hunger-strikers; two of them continued striking in hospital, where they had been brought because of health problems.

The hunger-strikers had claimed that the Lermontov City Council was disbanded deliberately. The Territorial Election Commission declared full compliance of the procedure with the law, and the CEC of the Russian Federation recommended not abolishing the local elections in Lermontov. As a result, it became known that the new elections to the City Council of Lermontov may be held not earlier than May 20.

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