Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Activists Say North Caucasians Oppose Putin Amendments to the Constitution

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – Historically, the non-Russian republics of the North Caucasus have delivered super majorities for whatever the Kremlin wants, sometimes majorities exceeding 100 percent approval; but in the upcoming referendum on amendments to the Constitution, the center will achieve this only by outright falsification, activists across the region say.

            That is because they and the peoples of their republics are as hostile to the changes and the way they are being rammed through as Russians elsewhere, although they are experienced enough to know that however they vote and even if they boycott the votes, the Kremlin is already prepared to announce a victory.

            The Kavkaz-Uzel news agency surveyed the opinions of social and political leaders across the region and found that these activists had very specific and very negative opinions about most of the proposed amendments and also about the holding of the referendum at a time of pandemic as well (

            The teips of Ingushetia have already announced that they will boycott the vote because they see no value in the proposed changes and resent the fact that Moscow has ignored their specific problems and the problems of the non-Russian nations as a whole. Ingush have voted for Putin in the past; they are less willing to do so now, the activists say, especially because they expect massive falsification of the results by Russian officials.

            Boris Pashtov, head of the Kabardino-Balkaria branch of the KPRF, says he will vote against the amendments because he does not want Putin’s time in office extended and because the current constitution does not address the basic problems of the peoples of the Russian Federation.  He adds that all the changes Putin has proposed could have been introduced by laws without any change in the country’s basic law or with an all-Russian vote.

            Khakim Kuchmezov, leader of the KBR section of Yabloko, says he and his fellow party members will not take part in the referendum because they do not want to have Putin in office for the rest of his life.  But he is also concerned about the language in the amendments allowing for the establishment of “federal territories.”

            Such arrangements might be appropriate from an economic point of view, he continues; but what will happen to the national republics if this measure is adopted?  The proposed amendment offers no answers to that. 

            Aneta Gadiyeva of North Ossetia’s Beslan Mothers organization says that the amendments raise more questions than they answer. The introduction of the notion that the Russians alone are the state-forming nation reduces all others to second class status.  And including God in the basic law is divisive given how many atheists there are.

            Moreover, she continues, talk about federal territories is dangerous given that the country is already divided into oblasts, krays, and republics. Are all these to be done away with? The amendment doesn’t say.

            Two Daghestani commentators are equally opposed. Khalil Khalilov of the republic’s Real Politics Foundation says some of the ideas in the amendments are fine but others are not. Unfortunately, Moscow is demanding that Russians approve all of them rather than allowing the people to vote on each separately.

            Shamil Khadulayev, head of the NGO Coordinating Council in Daghestan, says the amendments do nothing to strengthen the territorial integrity of the country and that “knowing the attitude of people to the changes, I can confidently say that the majority of people will not go to vote for the changes” and that “a significant majority will vote against.”

            In Kalmykia, Semen Ateyev, a human rights activist, says the entire process has been a cynical exercise of power and that taking part simply allows the authorities to act as if they have support. Valery Badmayev, editor of Sovremennaya Kalmykia says he opposes a boycott because that will make it easier for the powers to falsify the results.

            It is important to vote and to vote “no,” he continues, in order to show those in power that we will resist by voting that way. We are told that by taking part in the voting, we are giving legitimacy to the procedure. But if we don’t take part, then it may turn out that it will appear that everyone has come to terms with it.”

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