The amended law on elections for republic head stipulates that in the event that a regional parliament opts not to hold direct elections for that post, lawmakers elect the new republic head from three nominees selected by the Russian president from candidates proposed by each of the political parties represented in the regional legislature.
It is therefore almost a foregone conclusion that profoundly unpopular former career military-intelligence officer Yunus-Bek Yevkurov will be endorsed for a second term leading Ingushetia, while former Russian Nationalities Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, whom Putin appointed acting Daghestan president in late January, will be formally confirmed in that post.
In the case of Daghestan, Putin's decree effectively lays to rest fevered speculation in recent weeks that he was already disenchanted with Abdulatipov and was planning to replace him. That speculation derived from Putin's failure to meet formally with Abdulatipov to assess the latter's first six months in office. Abdulatipov's press service dismissed it as unsubstantiated rumor.
The long-anticipated Putin-Abdulatipov meeting finally took place last week. On his return to Makhachkala, Abdulatipov told a press conference that Putin had endorsed his proposals for reviving the agricultural sector and for underwriting investment projects. Asked about the rumors of his imminent dismissal, Abdulatipov replied: "Reassure people that we shall continue working as before. We know what needs to be done and how to set about doing it."
The other two nominees on Putin's Daghestan list appear to have been selected virtually at random. They are Audit Chamber head Malik Bagliyev (proposed by Patriots of Russia) and human rights ombudsman Ummupazil Omarova (proposed by A Just Cause). Unlike Abdulatipov, neither is an Avar: Bagliyev is a Lezgin and Omarova a Dargin. Marina Abramkina, the deputy head of the Daghestani chapter of United Russia, predicted that 95 percent of Daghestan's 90 parliament deputies will vote for Abdulatipov.
In addition to Yevkurov, Putin's shortlist of candidates to lead Ingushetia comprises deputy parliament speaker Magomed Tatriyev (proposed by United Russia) and Uruskhan Yevloyev, head of the Ingushetian chapter of the A Just Russia party, which proposed him as a candidate.
Why Putin chose not to propose Yevkurov's predecessor as republic head, career Federal Security Service General Murat Zyazikov, is unclear. Zyazikov had been nominated by Sergei Baburin's Russian People's Union (ROS) only after the deadline for parties to hold consultations with Putin about their respective nominees had passed. That could have served as a pretext for overlooking him, if Putin had concluded that Yevkurov is better suited to the role of apparent counterweight to Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov -- unless Yevkurov has been set up to fail, and thus be unceremoniously dumped in order to facilitate a merger of Chechnya and Ingushetia with Kadyrov as leader.
In contrast to Daghestan, Ingushetia's numerically small but vociferous opposition groups have campaigned for months against what they perceived as an unwarranted and unconstitutional attempt by the Kremlin to disenfranchise them, and against Yevkurov serving a second term.
Shortly before the announcement of Putin's shortlist, Ingushetia's three main opposition groupings, together with 12 smaller organizations and the local chapters of three Russian political parties (including the ROS, which had nominated Zyazikov) addressed an open letter to Putin, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Central Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Churov, Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin, and the heads of both chambers of the Russian parliament. They construed the suspension of their constitutional right as Russian citizens to vote for their republic head as motivated exclusively by the Kremlin's desire to keep Yevkurov as republic head and branded his anticipated confirmation in that post by the republic's puppet parliament illegal.
Just hours after Putin's three nominees were announced, many of the same organizations endorsed a subsequent appeal to six prominent Moscow-based Ingush, including Russneft head Mikhail Gutseriyev, Musa Keligov (who represents Ingushetia in the Federation Council), and Zyazikov, to try to explain to the Russian leadership the moral and economic damage they claim Yevkurov has inflicted on Ingushetia and the perils inherent in confirming him as its leader for a further five years. The signatories declared optimistically that by joining forces, they could collectively ensure that within a month, neither Yevkurov nor Prime Minister Musa Chiliyev would still be in power.
Also on August 19, Daud Khuchiyev, one of the organizers of the Ingush opposition congress in Moscow in June, addressed a separate open letter to Yevkurov branding as enemies of the Ingush people both Yevkurov and the parliament that voted in favor of abolishing direct elections for republic head. Khuchiyev too appealed to Zyazikov, Keligov, and other Moscow-based Ingush to close ranks and join the "difficult struggle of the Ingush for their right to call themselves a people."