That candidate, who had been selected by general council of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, is a Cherkess, Vyacheslav Derev, whose brother Stanislav ran unsuccessfully in the republican presidential election of 1999. Vyacheslav Derev's repeated rejection by the republic's legislature underscores the supremacy of ethnic and clan loyalties among the Karachai majority over the requirement to observe party discipline.
The Karachais are the largest ethnic group in Karachayevo-Cherkessia, accounting for some 38.5 percent of the total population (which numbered 427,400 at the time of the 2002 Russian census). The Russians are the second-largest ethnic group (33.6 percent), followed by the Cherkess (11.3 percent) and their ethnic kin the Abazins (7.4 percent).
Ebzeyev, whom Russian President Dmitry Medvedev named KChR president in September 2008, is a Karachai, who ruffled feathers last fall by failing to abide by an unwritten agreement on the allocation of top posts among the various ethnic groups.
United Russia has a clear majority of seats in the KChR parliament elected in March 2009 (52 of 73). There are 37 Karachai deputies, 17 Russians, 10 Cherkess, and five Abazins.
Ebzeyev first proposed Derev as senator on June 16, but a group of United Russia lawmakers came up with an alternative candidate -- another Cherkess businessman, Ali Makhov. Only 26 deputies of the 66 present voted for Derev on June17; Makhov's candidacy was not put to the vote. Makhov and several of the deputies who supported him subsequently received a party reprimand. Derev's candidacy was to have been voted on a second time on July 2, but the United Russia faction forced an adjournment of the session.
Cherkess activist Mukhamed Cherkesov was quoted by kavkaz-uzel.ru on July 14 as predicting that the Karachai faction would stop at nothing to thwart Derev's election as senator because he is so wealthy that "he cannot be bought for a million, whereas you might buy another Cherkess for 100,000."