The candidate in question, Vyacheslav Derev, is a Cherkess; the parliament deputies in question are mostly Karachais. The incident could negatively impact on the already strained relations within the KChR between the Karachais, who account for approximately 38 percent of the republic's total 427,400 population, and the Cherkess minority, who number no more than 11 percent.
Latent tensions between the republic's two titular nationalities resurfaced last fall when the republic's new president, Boris Ebzeyev (a Karachai) violated an unwritten agreement that the post of prime minister should go to a Cherkess, while the posts of vice president and parliament speaker go to Russians, who are the second-largest ethnic group (33.6 percent). Instead, Ebzeyev named a Greek, Vladimir Kayshev, as prime minister.
One first deputy prime minister (Muradin Kemov) is a Circassian and the second (Ismail Aliyev) a Karachai; of the two deputy prime ministers, one (Murat Khartsyzov) is an Abazin and the second (Djanibek Suyunov) a Nogai. The cabinet consists of three Karachais, two Russians, two Abazins, one Greek, one Circassian, and one Ossetian.
Derev is the brother of legendary Cherkess businessman Stanislav Derev, who was elected mayor of Cherkessk in 1997, and ran in 1999 for president against incumbent Vladimir Semenov, losing in the second round runoff. Stanislav Derev died in July 2006, and was given a hero's funeral. Vyacheslav Derev took over his brother's various businesses after his death.
United Russia is the largest faction within the KChR parliament elected in March of this year, with 56 of the total 75 deputies. Ebzeyev discussed senatorial candidates with all parliament factions, and United Russia reportedly approved Derev's candidacy. On June 16, however, 27 United Russia lawmakers proposed an alternative candidate, Cherkess businessman Ali Makhov, who had also been a member of Stanislav Derev's election campaign team in 1999; but five of them withdrew their support for Makhov the next day.
Ebzeyev formally proposed Derev's candidacy at a special parliament session on June 17 and appealed to lawmakers to be guided by "reason" in voting on it.
But in a secret ballot, only 26 of the 68 deputies present voted for Derev, while 42 voted against him. The Russian news agency Regnum quoted independent expert Murat Gukemukhov as explaining that many people still associate Vyacheslav Derev with the violent standoff triggered by the 1999 presidential ballot, even though they have no objections to him personally.
Makhov was one of the 14 United Russia lawmakers whom the party's local leadership reprimanded; two others, Abdulakh Tokov and Umar Laypanov (both Karachais) risk expulsion from the party. Parliament faction head Yury Krivobokov has been ordered to ensure that faction members toe the party line in the next vote; it's still not clear whether Ebzeyev will again nominate Derev.