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Kabardino-Balkaria: President's Premature Resignation Highlights Republic's Problems

  • Liz Fuller

http://gdb.rferl.org/31E6428E-E020-481A-980C-C05C019D13B4_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/31E6428E-E020-481A-980C-C05C019D13B4_mw800_mh600.jpg Valerii Kokov submitted his resignation as president of the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (RKB) to Russian President Vladimir Putin on 16 September, citing his deteriorating health, Russian media reported. Kokov, who is 66, has headed the republic for 14 years. He has undergone at least one operation for throat cancer, and at the time of his resignation he was reportedly hospitalized in Moscow. In line with an unwritten law, the next president will almost certainly, like Kokov, be a Kabardian -- Kabardians are the republic's largest ethnic group and account for 46 percent of the RKB's total population of some 897,000.

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 September named two potential candidates to succeed Kokov. The first is Arsen Kanokov, the head of a Moscow firm, who was elected to the Russian State Duma as a candidate for Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia but subsequently defected to the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia. The second is Moscow-based lawyer Albert Kadjarov, who ran unsuccessfully against Kokov in the January 2002 presidential ballot. Kokov was reelected for a third term with 96 percent of the vote; Kadjarov finished in third place with a paltry 1.8 percent. While Kanokov enjoys the support of the "party of power," Kadjarov can reportedly rely on that of many members of the RKB's Muslim clergy, whose relations with Kokov's administration Mufti Anas Pshekhachev can be defined as infused by "personal animosity."

"Kommersant-Daily" on 17 September identified several other possible choices, first and foremost Gennadii Gubin, who served for years as Kokov's vice president until his appointment as RKB prime minister 18 months ago. Gubin, said to be "an extremely competent specialist," will serve as interim acting president until the republic's parliament proposes a successor to Kokov. (In the event that Gubin, a Russian, is chosen as president, then the post of prime minister would go to a Kabardian.) Also in the running to succeed Kokov, according to "Kommersant-Daily," are Khachim Karmokov, who represents the RKB in the Federation Council, and RKB Security Council Secretary Oleg Shandirov. But RKB parliament speaker Khuseyn Chechenov was quoted on 17 September by kommersant.ru as saying that "it is already clear" that Kanokov will be selected. Chechenov described Kanokov as a successful businessman, with an excellent grounding in economic and budget issues (he is deputy chairman of the Duma's Committee on the Budget and Taxation).

If elected, Kanokov will need to draw on that expertise as he gets to grips with Kokov's economic legacy. According to kommersant.ru, of the RKB's total 6.43 billion rubles ($226.3 million) in budget expenditures in 2005, 3.37 billion rubles were subsidies from the federal center. The average monthly wage is 3,685 roubles ($130). Registered unemployment as of early 2005 was 20.5 percent; the crime rate was the fourth highest in the entire Russian Federation.

Nor is the ailing economy the only, or even the most serious problem, the new RKB president will face. He must also find a way to counter the growing alienation of the Balkar minority, some of whom are again demanding their own separate republic, and to stem the increasing popularity and influence of clandestine Islamic djamaats that according to one Russian commentator seek "to create a separate social space where Russian social and legal norms no longer obtain." While some of those radical Islamic groups eschew violence, one -- Yarmuk, which had close links with the Chechen resistance -- launched a deadly raid in December 2004 on the Nalchik office of the federal antidrug agency. Four of Yarmuk's members were surrounded and killed in Nalchik in late April. But the Chechens may well be planning to launch more such attacks in conjunction with local militants: among the commanders Chechen President and resistance leader Abdul-Khalim Sadullaev named in early May of this year was one with responsibility for military activity on the so-called "Kabardino-Balkar sector."

See also:

What Is The Biggest Threat To Stability In Kabardino-Balkaria?

Kabardino-Balkaria's Young Muslims Want to Emigrate To Avoid Harassment
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