29. Nov. 2005

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(Independent Daily)

These elections were surely neither free nor fair
Interview: Andrey Terekhov

From Your point of view, were the elections free and fair?

These elections were surely neither free nor fair. But such attributes only mature democracy may get and nobody should be astonished that this is not possible in a war torn society like Chechnya in Russia, where the attempt to build democracy is only very young.

For free elections you need free citizens. For being a free citizen you should also be free of existential fears. This is what most people in Chechnya miss most: Many of them are afraid to loose again in a early morning their husband, uncle, sun or other children because they are kidnapped by private militias who terrorise the country. We spoke with three women in the streets of Achkoi-Martan and all of them went to the elections but all of them had such experiences, and expressed deep fears.

Further more the majority of the people are unemployed. The lack of such existential security undermine every election. That's why it is so urgent to start to include opponents, to overcome security forces which do not obey to the elected officials and who are not accountable before the Courts and why you have to reconstruct the economy, the villages and the souls of the people. The money for these purposes exists, but more then the half of it are lost to corrupted people.

For a fair election you need to have a fair chance to choose from all possible political options. One of the most interesting parties, the Republican one, which wanted to start to build bridges in this polarized and fragmented society was eliminated on the base of doubtful reasons. This limits the freedom of the electors and is not fair.

These elections are highly ambivalent: Its true, that even in Chechnya many people don't give up their hope and do hope that a parliament could help them out of their misery - and that's why its really true, that at least more then 30% went to vote. But under such conditions its hard to organise elections which lead to a real representative and legitimated parliament.

What's Your assessment of the pre-election campaign?

The basis freedom of speech, assembly and movement is not guaranteed for all. This and the permanent fears undermined also the pre-election campaign. There have been some party-meetings, but they discussed among themselves, not with each other on different programmatic analyses and visions. But in a society without basis processes of reconciliation this is perhaps also too much to ask for.

Has the "administrative resource" been used in Chechnya?

I am sure yes. Those who depend in their working life from the authorities are afraid to disagree and to show an open opposition. This we experienced in a staged meeting with so-called NGOs which de facto were more than 50% GONGOs and where afterwards many real NGO representatives told us that they have been told not to say anything and how much they are afraid to publicly disagree because they have already lost family members and relatives to uncontrolled forces who are hardly ever made responsible for criminal acts.

Is the new Parliament going to representative?

The big problem in Chechnya is, that the real power - private, half-official security militias, which legitimate themselves by fighting "terrorists" - has hardly any democratic legitimacy and that the official power which at least some democratic legitimacy seems to be too weak to impose the legitimating will and the interest of the majority of the normal citizens. It s hard to believe that the new Parliament is able to change this situation.

We confronted the personal expression of the real power, Ramsan Kadirow, with these and other hard criticism; he faced it and responded in a very self assure and not very auto-critical way. And we discussed four times similar observations also with the much more thoughtful and sensitive president Alchanov who s position is extremely difficult. He seems also to be aware of specific traditional, in a certain way "pre-modern" elements of the chechnyan society, which undermines the efforts to build democracy and establish human rights. Ramsan is profiting from such contradictions, president Alchanov, this was my personal impression, seems also to suffer about it.

The Kremlin should not delegate too many of its own responsibility to Ramsan Kadyrow. In doing this it does not only discredit core interests of the Russian society but also undermine basic values such as human rights and democracy what would exactly help those fundamentalist Islamic groups and terrorists, such as Bassayew, whom democrats have to bring to the Courts and justice.

Andreas Gross

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