Kommersant, 08-27-03; President Putin Will Win the Election in Chechnya
- Chechen Government Head Popov on Rebel Activity, Public Opinion Polls
Moscow Kommersant in Russian 27 Aug 03 P2
[Interview with Anatoliy Popov, head of Chechen Government, by Mura
Muradov, personal correspondent; place and date not given: "President
Putin Will Win the Election in Chechnya" -- taken from HTML version of
source provided by ISP]
Yesterday the Chechen Electoral Commission completed its review of
the signatures and special accounts of the potential candidates for
presidential office in the republic. Preliminary reports indicate
that no violations were discovered, and the registration of the
candidates is supposed to begin tomorrow. Anatoliy Popov, the head
of the Chechen Government, who will serve as the republic's acting
president during the election campaign, is certain that no one will
prevent the people from expressing their wishes now. He tried to
convince Kommersant correspondent Musa Muradov of this.
[Muradov] Are you satisfied with the nomination process?
[Popov] Everything was done in accordance with law and without
[Muradov] What about the controversy that erupted when Bislan
Gantamirov, the republic's press minister, announced that he would not
support Akhmat Kadyrov? According to our sources, an edict
dismissing him has already been drafted.
[Popov] First of all, that was not a controversy, just a
controversial statement. Second, I have never seen even a rough
draft of that edict.
[Muradov] Was there no discussion of the matter?
[Popov] No one discussed it with me, at any rate.
[Muradov] Maskhadov's supporters are threatening to wreck the
election. Last week, rebel soldiers suddenly occupied the rural
community of Avtury and aircraft had to be used to drive them away....
[Popov] I think those events in Avtury proved that anyone
wishing to wreck the election has no chance of succeeding. The
situation in the republic is completely under the control of military
and law enforcement personnel. The main thing, however, is that the
absolute majority of the local population wants a legitimate
government. Any other stance would be contrary to common sense.
The opponents of the election are isolated individuals, and they have
no right to impose their will on the rest.
[Muradov] Maskhadov's supporters feel that the 1997 presidential
election was also legal, and this has to be taken into account.
[Popov] I think these questions were answered by the referendum,
when the overwhelming majority of the population voted in favor of the
constitution and the law on presidential elections. Now everything
is being done in accordance with the constitution and that law.
[Muradov] Before the referendum, the Chechen population was
promised many things, specifically the removal of the checkpoints from
Groznyy and the payment of compensation. Neither of these things has
been done yet, however. Are you worried that the election will be
undermined by low voter turnout?
[Popov] I think voter turnout will be quite impressive. The
voters will go to the polls. The number of checkpoints decreased
dramatically after the referendum. As for the payment of
compensation, that is not such a simple matter. A government decree
issued in July clearly defined the payment procedures. With the help
of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, I have been able to solve several
problems that would have held up the payment of compensation. By
September, people will already start receiving money. This was never
a case of deception.
[Muradov] The payment of compensation last time was accompanied
by unscrupulous practices. Do you expect this to happen again?
[Popov] This time it will be impossible. The money will not be
disbursed in the form of cash. It will be transferred to the
personal bank accounts of victims. The whole process will be
monitored by the appropriate agencies. We will not allow officials
to make any arbitrary decisions.
[Muradov] Will fair campaigning be difficult to secure?
[Popov] I think fairness depends largely on the candidates.
All official agencies--the electoral commission, the government, and
the security agencies--will make every effort to secure fair
[Muradov] Each of the candidates has his own team, and this team
will serve as the basis of the winning candidate's government. Is
there a candidate on whose team you would want to continue working in
[Popov] If Akhmat Kadyrov wins and asks me to stay, I will.
[Muradov] Obviously, federal officials are extremely interested
in the outcome of the Chechen election. Do you know which candidate
the Kremlin prefers?
[Popov] I do, but I am an official and I head the government.
Any answer I give could be interpreted as unfair campaigning.
Therefore, I will not say anything.
[Muradov] According to public opinion polls, the incumbent
republic leader's opponents have a better chance of winning the
election: The candidates with the highest approval ratings are State
Duma Deputy Aslakhanov and Moscow businessman Saydullayev.
[Popov] I do not trust those polls. They are made to order.
I do not want to guess the frontrunner in the election race.
Besides, I do not think this is the most important thing. The most
important thing, in my opinion, is that the winners in the 5 October
election will be the Chechen people and President Putin, who said that
the republic should be governed by a courageous and admirable