Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tatarstan Hangs Tough on Presidency

Paul Goble     

            Staunton, December 24 – The State Council of Tatarstan yesterday adjourned for the year without changing the title of the republic’s top official from president to head, and the Russian Duma has adjourned without acting until January 19. As a result, for a few weeks at least, Kazan will be in violation of the federal law requiring such a change.

            That has sparked discussions both in Moscow and in Kazan about what will happen next and when, with some confident that the presidential title will be preserved and others equally certain that Moscow will find a way either via the procurcy or through a decision by the Russian State Duma.

            In an article in “Kommersant” today, Kirill Antonov, that Moscow paper’s Kazan correspondent, describes some of the state of play; and in a lead article in today’s “Zvezda Povolzhya,” Reshit Akhmetov suggests what he thinks Kazan should do in order to retain the title.

            Farid Mukhametshin, the speaker of Tatarstan’s State Council, told Antonov that Kazan officials have been talking to Moscow about the situation but refused to discuss how the current standoff might be resolved. “You’ll find out everything in its time,” he said (

            Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov and other Tatarstan officials have been encouraged by Vladimir Putin’s recent statement that the issue should be decided by the people of the republic. Indeed, many of them, including Tatar nationalists like Rinat Zakirov, are convinced that as a result Tatarstan will win this fight.

            Others are less sanguine.  Fatikh Sibagatullin, a deputy  from Tatarstan in the Russian Duma, says that Moscow will give orders to prosecutors and that will be that, all the more so since Tatarstan deputies voted for the law abolishing republic presidencies when it came up for a approval five years ago.

            Sergey Sergeyev, a Kazan political analyst, says that Kazan “considers that there will not be any immediate sanctions” against Tatarstan if it keeps the title “or that they will not be imposed in general.” Instead, he argues, Kazan will simply keep citing Putin’s words about the right of the republic to choose.

            The analyst suggests that “some kind of agreement” between Kazan and Moscow has already been achieved, even though he “does not include the possibility that the authorities of Tatarstan expect ‘prosecutorial pressure’” to bring the republic into line with the federal legislation.

            Tatarstan procurator Ildus Nafikov, for his part, refused to respond to the “Kommersant” journalist about this.  But if he was not talking, others are. Former Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaymiyev said that he believes Moscow needs to change its law to adapt to Kazan’s demands and that this should be taken after the next Russian Duma elections.
But perhaps the most likely Kazan strategy now has been suggested by Rashit Akhmetov, the influential editor of “Zvezda Povolzhya.” In a lead article today, he says Kazan should not turn to the courts but rather appeal directly to Vladimir Putin given the latter’s statements in support of the republic’s rights (no. 46 (774) (24-30 December 2015), p. 1).
That is because, Akhmetov suggests, Putin having taken a position so recently will not want to change it so soon.

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