The parliament of the Karachayevo-Cherkessia Republic recently approved former Russian Constitutional Court Judge Boris Ebzeyev as the republic's president, replacing Mustafa Batdyev, whose term expires in early September.
Ebzeyev, 58, is one of the Dmitry Medvedev's first appointees to head a Russian Federation subject, and the choice is interesting for several reasons. First, Medvedev, a trained lawyer, chose a fellow legal expert, not a representative of the "siloviki."
Second, Ebzeyev has not worked in his home republic for decades, and therefore is not encumbered by a network of cronies who will expect him to create sinecures for them. He will have a freer hand, if he so chooses, to crack down on corruption, a stated priority of Medvedev's.
And third, he is a Karachay, not a Russian. The Karachays are the largest ethnic group, and dominate the parliament; they have warned in recent months that they would not take kindly to having a Russian foisted on them as president. Medvedev, in what could be construed as sensitivity to national pride, selected Ebzeyev rather than one of two Russians identified as possible candidates.
It would, however, be premature to conclude that Medvedev is serious about stamping out corruption and mismanagement in the North Caucasus unless or until he decides to replace a far more odious and reputedly far more corrupt figure, Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov who, like Putin, made his career in the KGB.
Ingushetian opposition leader Magomed Khazbiyev delivered to Medvedev's office on August 4 no fewer than 80,000 individual signed statements calling for Zyazikov's dismissal and his replacement by his predecessor, retired General Ruslan Aushev. (Ingushetia's entire population is 480,000.) Medvedev's staff have promised a response within one month.
-- Liz Fuller