Four months after being assaulted and injured during a party conference in Makhachkala, Avar politician Gadzhimurad Omarov has been replaced as head of the Daghestan chapter of the A Just Russia party. That party's Moscow-based ruling body has proposed Omarov's erstwhile rival, Kamil Davdiyev, to succeed him.
The A Just Russia faction is the second-largest in Daghestan's parliament after United Russia, numbering 13 of the total 90 lawmakers. Davdiyev, who is a Lak, currently heads the parliament's Committee for Interethnic Relations and Ties with Political Parties and Public Organizations. When Omarov was elected three years ago to head A Just Russia's Daghestan chapter, Davdiyev reportedly threatened to resign in protest.
The tension between the two men apparently derives from their diverging assessments of the track record of Republic of Daghestan head Ramazan Abdulatipov. Davdiyev unfailingly expresses support for Abdulatipov's various initiatives. By contrast, Omarov, who counts himself a longtime friend of Abdulatipov, told the independent weekly Chernovik in December that he could not see anything good in what Abdulatipov had done since being named republic head in January 2013; on the contrary, the republic is virtually bankrupt and corruption has increased. Omarov said his party was trying to collect 50,000 signatures to a petition demanding Abdulatipov's resignation.
At the same time, Omarov voiced clear regret that a man who had been his close friend and whom he had personally assured the Russian presidential administration was the most suitable candidate for the post of republic head, had changed so much. "For 20 years I knew him as one person, and now he is a completely different person," Omarov said.
Speaking shortly after the assault in February in which he sustained a broken collarbone, Omarov implied that Abdulatipov may have been behind it. He said the group of men who attacked him was headed by Magomed Alkhazov, a former Abdulatipov aide who is now a deputy minister of ecology and natural resources. Omarov said Alkhazov conveyed to him an oral message from Abdulatipov not to hold any further party gatherings in Daghestan. Alkhazov was detained in late April for questioning in connection with the standoff in Makhachkala during which Omarov was injured, but denied any role in it.
Omarov was said to have stepped down of his own volition as head of A Just Russia's Daghestan chapter. But Derbent blogger Shamil Agayev draws attention to a recent meeting in Makhachkala between Abdulatipov and Fedot Tumusov, a member of the party's governing council. That meeting gave rise to speculation that Abdulatipov had demanded Omarov's removal in return for a pledge to ensure that A Just Russia remains the second-largest faction in Daghestan's National Assembly, and Tumusov agreed.
Alternatively, it is possible that Abdulatipov, who is engaged in a "battle of the titans" with Derbent Mayor Imam Yaraliyev, is simply seeking to neutralize all local politicians courageous enough to criticize him.
Yaraliyev, who in January neatly engineered his reelection for a further term, has been expelled from the leadership of the Daghestan branch of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and is under increasing pressure to resign.
Commentators suspect Abdulatipov wants to install in his place a compliant figure who would turn a blind eye to the diversion for other purposes of the huge sums of money allocated from the federal budget for preparations to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Derbent's founding.