Daghestan's parliament voted last week to abolish the free medical care to which the families of the republic's former leaders are entitled after those leaders leave office. That provision was one of the privileges enumerated in what has become known as the "law on golden parachutes" passed in late 2013, shortly after Ramazan Abdulatipov was formally confirmed as republic head.
The timing of the amendment is likely to fuel ongoing speculation that Abdulatipov, who turned 70 last year, will be dismissed before his formal term in office ends next year, possibly to be replaced by a Russian Interior Ministry general.
The "law on golden parachutes" entitles former republic heads to personal bodyguards for the duration of their lifetime; the use of official transport and communications; medical care; life insurance paid for from the republic's budget; and a monthly pension equivalent to 75 percent of their final salary. Those benefits will remain in effect but will apply only to former republic heads who have reached pension age. Abdulatipov's predecessor, Magomedsalam Magomedov, 52, who is currently a member of the Russian presidential administration, is therefore not yet entitled to claim them, unlike his father, Magomedali Magomedov, who headed the republic from 1994-2006, and Mukhu Aliyev, who held that post from 2006-10.
In June 2015, Daghestani lawyer Marat Ismayilov wrote to Daghestan's Prosecutor-General Ramazan Shakhnavazov arguing that the law violated federal legislation on budget spending that bars regional parliaments from enacting legislation that entails expenditure that cannot be paid for out of the region's revenues. Some 74 percent of Daghestan's budget comprises subsidies from the federal government.
Shakhnavazov appealed the parliament's decision to Daghestan's Supreme Court, which after obtaining from the republic's Finance Ministry details of the costs involved conceded that the provision of free medical care for former leaders' family members is illegal, but upheld the privileges to which former republic heads are entitled.
Shakhnavazov then took his complaint to Russia's Supreme Court, which likewise upheld those privileges.
What impelled Daghestani parliamentarians to amend the law last week is not clear. (They reportedly calculated that doing so will save 2 million rubles [$33,285] a year.) But the move is likely to reignite speculation that Abdulatipov's days as republic head are numbered. A document released in December by a St. Petersburg think tank listed him, together with Adygeya head Aslan Tkhakushinov and Volgograd Oblast Governor Andrei Bocharev, among federation subject heads whose rating had fallen over the past year. Tkhakushinov, 69, stepped down in January at the end of his second term.
Just days later, journalist and Kremlin insider Maksim Shevchenko quoted unnamed "extremely reliable sources" as predicting that Abdulatipov would shortly step down, and that retired Colonel General Sergei Chenchik, who formerly headed the Interior Ministry directorate for the North Caucasus Federal District, would be named acting republic head in his place.
But Gadjimet Safaraliyev, who represents Daghestan in the Russian State Duma, immediately discounted that possibility, affirming that Abdulatipov will serve out his full term (which ends in September 2018).
Commentator Aleksandr Polansky, for his part, made the point that if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to replace Abdulatipov now, doing so would constitute a tacit admission that he had made a major strategic error in dismissing Magomedsalam Magomedov in early 2013 after just three years and naming Abdulatipov to succeed him.