Staunton, June 28 – The Ingushetia election commission announced today that Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov will be voted on and presumably approved by the republic’s Popular Assembly on the same day that Ingush residents go to the polls to elect municipal councils (ansar.ru/society/stala-izvestna-data-vyborov-glavy-ingushetii).
That coincidence may or may not lead to trouble given how many Ingush opposition figures have expressed the view that any new head of the republic should be subject to the direct vote of the population, one of their three key demands up to now (the other are the release of prisoners and the reversal of the border accord with Chechnya.)
Moscow has clearly decided not to agree to that demand, something that may cast a shadow over the beginning of Kalimatov’s time in office, largely out of concern that any election could trigger ethnic conflicts but also because the center does not want to appear to have made such a concession to protests (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/337218/).
The Ingush were delighted by the resignation of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov but so far have been restrained in their assessments of and predictions for his replacement, apparently having decided to take a wait-and-see attitude (kavkazr.com/a/30023460.html). But some telling comments are coming in both from Ingush and others.
Local residents say that Kalimatov comes from “a respected Ingush family,” combines local and federal experience, and importantly is not a military man but someone whose entire career, unlike his two predecessors, has not been part of the siloviki. Consequently, they say, he may be open to a more political and less repressive approach.
Murad Daskiyev, head of the Union of Teips of the Ingush People and one of the leaders of the protest movement, says the Ingush are “fed up” with generals and want someone who talks before deciding using force. He says he hopes that Kalimatov will live up to that standard as he did when he served in Ingushetia earlier (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/chelovek-iz-dobroj-semi/).
Aleksey Malashenko, a Moscow specialist on Islam and the Caucasus, says that Kalimatov has all the qualities need for success: he is an ethnic Ingush but he has worked in the center and so can function at one and the same time as a federal and regional leader. But the tasks confronting him are enormous; and Malashenko says he “doesn’t envy him.”
One worrying sign: Daskiyev says that Ingush view Kalimatov as a “temporary” figure, someone sent in to do what Moscow wants but not someone who is likely to remain in place for very long. In Daskiyev’s mind, anyone who wants to gain real authority in the republic will have to be elected by the population, something Kalimatov won’t be, at least initially.
And the teip union leader ends with a warning: If Kalimatov continues Yevkurov’s policies, there will be more and larger protests. “If he comes in and says let’s start with a clean slate, the situation could be entirely different.”