Saturday, July 9, 2016

Daghestani Head’s Efforts to Undermine ‘Party of Muftiate’ Highlight Its Strength and His Weakness

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 9 – Daghestani head Ramazan Abdulatipov is trying ever more steps to block the rise of what people in his republic now call the People Against Corruption Party – “the party of the muftiate’ – because he fears that the ruling United Russia Party may not only fail to get its usual 90 percent of the vote but might not even win a majority in the upcoming elections.

            That is the judgment of Mairbek Agayev, the editor of Makhachkala’s “Chernovik” newspaper, according to an analysis of the current state of Daghestani politics offered by Arsen Malikov of the OnKavkaz portal (

            But the ways in which Abdulatipov is trying to block a victory by “the party of the muftiate” both highlight his own political weakness and the strength of the opposition which has now based itself on the Sufi orders of Islam which traditionally have been the dominant form of social organization in that most Muslim of all republics in Russia.

            It is clear that Abdulatipov understands his predicament, Agayev says, and “being an experienced party nomenklatura man is trying to shift the battle to opposition territory setting his opponents against one another.”  But his attempts to do so may backfire because they open the way for greater sufi influence in government even if he gains his immediate electoral goal.

            According to the “Chernovik” editor, Abdulatipov last week met with Abdulzhalil afandi Karanaisky, one of the tariqat sheikhs of Daghestan. No details of the meeting have yet leaked out, but it seems certain that the head of the republic would not have met with the sufi sheikh if he weren’t worried about the so-called “party of the muftiate.”

            Before the death of Sheikh Said afandi Chirkeyski several years ago, Abudulzhalil afandi was widely considered to be the second most influential sufi leader in the republic; but after Said afandi died, the mufti, Akhmad Abdullayev, became sheikh instead. He is now behind the party of the muftiate.

            Abudulzhalil afandi nonetheless has remained extremely influential among Daghestanis, and Abdulatipov clearly hopes to play on existing tensions between the two men to weaken Akhmad Abdullayev and his party.  But the price of winning Abudulzhalil afandi’s support against Akhmad Abdullayev would certainly involve deferring to the former in the future.

            According to Agayev, Abdulatipov has made another move to divide the Muslim community of his republic for his own political ends that involved meeting with Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Russia. But that meeting too only calls attention to his own weakness and the strength of the Sufi party.

            By administrative means, of course, the current head of the republic may manage to eek out a victory. But these moves show that it is unlikely to be recognized as honest and just by the Muslims of Daghestan.  And to the extent that happens, Abdulatipov and his Moscow backers will be weakened in that North Caucasus republic and perhaps elsewhere as well.

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