The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (III), Governance, Elections, Rule of Law
Moscow/Brussels | 6 September 2013
Stronger democratic institutions are crucial to easing violence in Russia’s North Caucasus, where Europe’s worst armed conflict claimed at least 1,225 victims in 2012 and 495 in the first six months of 2013.
The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (III), Governance, Elections, Rule of Law, the third report by Crisis Group’s project for the troubled region, examines governmental, political and legal issues. Religious and ethnic conflicts, disputes over administrative boundaries, land and resources are important root causes of the deadly violence. These are exacerbated by the state’s incapacity to ensure fair political representation, an independent judiciary, adequate services and economic growth; and, most prominently in Chechnya and in Dagestan, repressive counter-insurgency strategies. A subsequent report on economic and social issues behind the conflicts will complete the series.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Deficits of democratic legitimacy and accountability, grave human rights violations and officials’ impunity have contributed much to the spread of conflict and a sense of the state as often illegitimate, immoral and repressive. Salafis offer in its place an Islamist state they claim would be more virtuous and fair, a project many angered, disillusioned youths find attractive.
Authentic improvement in the quality of governance in the North Caucasus is only possible if democratic institutions, such as direct elections, independent judiciary and rule of law, are established. Fair elections, preceded by competitive political processes, are a prerequisite for holding state officials accountable. The non-competitive, indirect elections of governors by republic assemblies on tap this weekend in Dagestan and Ingushetia are a step backwards.
Effective checks and balances could help ensure the state is not captured by elites. The fight against criminal activities of clan networks should be vigorous and consistent, but strictly within the law. The first measures taken in Dagestan this year give grounds for optimism and should be continued.
The central government should ensure reasonable decentralisation, including greater fiscal and political autonomy of the region’s seven republic governments. It should also simplify bureaucratic procedures for local governments to receive and disburse funds and streamline reporting obligations, while strengthening the state’s monitoring capacity to combat corruption.
“A functioning federal system with a degree of decentralisation and appropriate regional representation in the federal legislature would facilitate the North Caucasus’s integration with the rest of Russia. September 8 elections could have offered a way to improve the quality of governance if held democratically’’, said Ekaterina Sokirianskaia, North Caucasus Project Director. “Such integration is essential for the country’s security, healthy ethnic relations and stability”.
“Conflict in the mainly non-ethnic Russian and Muslim North Caucasus is expressed through a violent insurgency and strained ethnic relations’’, said Paul Quinn-Judge, Europe and Central Asia Program Director. “But lack of democratic institutions, rule of law, and trust in the state fuel much of the instability and must be addressed for tensions eventually to cool”.