Meeting in Cherkessk with Ebzeyev and other republican leaders on April 21, Khloponin stressed the need to galvanize the republic's economy and reduce unemployment. In a tacit acknowledgement of the animosity between the majority Karachais and the Cherkess (who account for just 11 percent of the total population), Khloponin gave Ebzeyev until May 1 to name a Cherkess prime minister. Shortly after his appointment as president in September 2008, Ebzeyev had named a Greek, Vladimir Kayshev, to head the new cabinet.
Ebzeyev yesterday duly named Deputy Prime Minister Muradin Kemov, a Cherkess, as acting prime minister. Ebzeyev said there would be no sweeping changes in the new cabinet and assessed the performance of the outgoing government as "satisfactory." Ebzeyev specifically praised the agricultural sector which was Kayshev's primary responsibility.
Kemov, too, made his career in agriculture. Aged 50, he trained as an agricultural veterinarian and worked for two decades in the agro-industrial complex. From September 2003 to July 2007 he served as first deputy minister of agriculture, then for just over a year as acting deputy head of the Federal Tax Service's Karachayevo-Cherkessia office.
It is too early to predict whether Kemov's narrow specialization will prove a liability in coordinating the work of the government as a whole. Commenting last week on Khloponin's ultimatum to Ebzeyev, Mukhamed Cherkesov, who heads the Karachayevo-Cherkessia branch of the Circassian organization Adyghe Khase (Circassian Council), said the republic's Cherkess minority would willingly accept a prime minister from another ethnic group, provided that candidate was optimally qualified for the post.
"In a situation where our economy is limping along, if not at the point of collapse, the post of premier should go to someone who is an economic expert and can stabilize the economic situation," Cherkesov argued.
Cherkesov added that regardless of the choice of prime minister, the Cherkess minority in Karachayevo-Cherkessia will continue to lobby for the revival of the separate Cherkess Autonomous Oblast that existed from 1943-1957.