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ROAR: “Parade of regional presidents should be stopped”

Published time: August 18, 2010 14:14
Edited time: August 18, 2010 14:14

The proposal of the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to change the name of his title has found understanding from other regional heads, but provoked a mixed reaction from politicians and analysts.

Chechnya’s head may acquire a new title in September. Recently, Kadyrov sent a letter to the republic’s parliament, asking it to consider changing the name of his official title. Kadyrov believes there should be only one president in a united state.

The heads of Russian regions are usually called governors. However, heads of several Russian republics have the title of president.

Kadyrov noted leaders of national republics in Russia may be named heads of republics, heads of administrations or governors. The “parade of regional presidents should be stopped,” he said, Itar-Tass reported.

“The parade of regional sovereign republics” was a common term in the post-Soviet Russia with some regions demanding more authority from the federal center. However, Kadyrov stressed he had refused the idea of “the delimitation of authority” between Chechnya and the federal authorities from the beginning. Such documents are not necessary because “everything is specified” in the country’s Constitution and there is no need for republics’ special authority, he was quoted by the agency as saying.

Members of the Chechen parliament have come to the conclusion that the next name of the president should be “regional head,” speaker Dukuvaha Abdurakhmanov said. The renaming may cost the Chechen budget from three to ten million roubles ($98,000 to $327,000), he noted.

In another Caucasus republic, North Ossetia, the issue of renaming the supreme executive has been solved long ago, the current leader Taimuraz Mamsurov said in a telephone conversation with Kadyrov. Mamsurov agreed that there should be only one president in Russia.

In 2005, Mamsurov, who headed the local parliament, proposed to rename the regional president to “the head of the republic.” In June 2005 he himself was sworn in as the republic’s leader and accepted this title.

The heads of Ingushetia, the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and Kabardino-Balkaria Republic have also supported the idea. A Kremlin source told RIA Novosti that the process of introducing a common title for all republics’ leaders may be launched soon “on a voluntary basis.” The idea has been under discussion for a long time.

This decision by Kadyrov is in line with the Kremlin’s position, believes Gleb Pavlovsky, the president of the Efficient Politics Foundation. The renaming “conforms to the opinion of the federal authorities, its course for unifying regional legislations and equating rights of republics and other regions,” he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

Political scientist Dmitry Badovsky sees a PR side in the Chechen leader’s proposal. “It is a gesture toward Moscow, the federal center, it is the sign of respect,” he told the agency. “For Caucasus, such kind of gesture is a very important thing,” he added.

The Chechen leader’s initiative is in line with the trend to eliminate “asymmetry of the Russian Federation’s structure,” said Sergey Mikheev of the Center for Political Technologies. Since the 1990s, some subjects of the federation have had “more rights than others,” he told Vremya Novostey daily.

In the future, it would be logical to eliminate the very notion “a national republic,” the analyst stressed, adding that any such republic is “a quasi state, or a state within a state, which has its own constitution.”

However, Vasily Loginov, deputy of the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan, supports the idea of “republics as states.” “This is written in the Constitution, in the part concerning the subjects of the federation,” he told Vechernyaya Kazan daily. “And states could have presidents,” he opined. If one is to follow Kadyrov’s logic, then presidents of big companies should also lose their titles, he believes.

At the same time, many analysts believe that the Chechen president has started a long-awaited process. The question is how the regional heads in the North Caucasus will be named, Mikheev believes. He doubts that all regional leaders will limit themselves to the name “the head of the republic.”

“If they are ready to name themselves governors, it is one thing,” he said. “But if there will be imams, sheiks and padishahs, it will only aggravate the situation in the country and allow more exotic and separatist institutions in Russia,” he stressed.

Some observers note that the current titles of regional heads do not have any signs of separatism. The renaming may bring more minuses than pluses, believes Mikhail Vinogradov of the Petersburg Politics foundation. Deepening into technical aspects of the administration in the territories, the federal authorities may “provoke irritation without getting any bonuses,” he told Vremya Novostey.

There are more important issues between the center and regions, which should be solved, the analyst noted. Also, the fight against separatism may lead “too far,” he warned. “In Belarus, this resulted in the absurd, and the heads of banks and joint-stock companies cannot be named presidents,” he noted.

The sphere of naming titles, executive bodies or local parliaments should remain the republics’ prerogative because the idea of federalism requires it, believes political analyst Aleksandr Kynev.

Approving the unification norms, politicians will highlight the fact that there is no federalism in the country, he told Rosbalt news agency. Preserving federalism even as a “declaration” still leaves chances that it will gain a living meaning some time, he noted.

“Successful unification of regions is not possible as Russia has too many ethnicities and traditions,” agrees Aleksey Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “Former republics will still demand more rights and insist on specifics of their being, or may even demand the change of their borders,” the analyst wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. “But then not local presidents, but appointed governors, or the federal center itself, will be responsible for such conflicts,” he warned.

Many analysts, on the contrary, describe Kadyrov’s initiative as reasonable. Moreover, it would be more logical if such an idea was proposed by federal authorities rather than regional ones, said Dmitry Orlov, the general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications.

“There is the unity of legal and constitutional space in Russia, but regional heads still have different titles,” the analyst told Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily. “There should be similar names of titles, be it governor or the head of administration, as well as the uniformity in the names of regional legislative bodies.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT