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Election Body Overrules Court In Daghestan Election Dispute

Demonstrators in Derbent protest on October 12 against the rigging of the vote.
Demonstrators in Derbent protest on October 12 against the rigging of the vote.
The local election commission in Derbent, southern Daghestan, officially approved on October 13 the outcome of the elections two days earlier for city mayor. According to official returns, incumbent Feliks Kaziakhmedov, the candidate of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, was reelected with 67.5 percent of the vote, compared with 28 percent for his closest challenger, former republican prosecutor Imam Yaraliyev, who ran as an independent. Yaraliyev criticized the commission's ruling as "reminiscent of the 18th century."

Earlier on October 13, the Derbent municipal court heard complaints from Yaraliyev and two other opposition candidates who demanded that the election outcome be annulled due to blatant interference and pressure by the authorities in support of Kaziakhmedov. The court called for suspending the vote count pending clarification of why 13 of the city's 36 polling stations remained closed on election day.

On October 12, up to 5,000 people took to the streets of Derbent to demand that the ballot be declared invalid and the intervention of municipal and government officials on Kaziakhmedov's behalf as anticonstitutional, illegal, and a violation of voters' rights. Some carried a banner addressed to Daghestan's President Mukhu Aliyev, accusing him of failing to act as "the guarantor of Daghestan's constitution."

From the outset, the election campaign was overshadowed by repeated allegations in the independent weekly "Chernovik" that the republic's leadership was sparing no effort to engineer Kaziakhmedov's reelection for a second term. The paper claimed that President Aliyev had dispatched virtually the entire cabinet to Derbent to campaign on Kaziakhmedov's behalf.

In fact, support for Kaziakhmedov was not confined to Daghestan. As reports emerged on October 11 of polling stations failing to open, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Vladimir Ustinov was ordered to Derbent to assess the situation firsthand.

And on October 13, United Russia sent its own special commission to Derbent -- but not to investigate the reported violations. Nikolai Pankov, who represents the party in the Russian State Duma, was quoted by "Kommersant" as saying the party does not doubt the reliability of the official election returns, and that he came simply "to defend our candidate and the election commission against the pressure his opponents are bringing to bear."

Kaziakhmedov was quoted by "Kommersant" on October 14 as saying that "the federal center is trying to guarantee the rule of law on the territory of Daghestan." He also said there is every reason to assume that United Russia will propose Aliyev's candidacy to Medvedev for a second presidential term.

Yaraliyev for his part attributed Moscow's support for Kaziakhmedov to a steady stream of disinformation supplied by Daghestan's leadership. He said that he considers President Aliyev his main opponent and not Kaziakhmedov, whom he described as "a puppet."

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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