PYATIGORSK, September 8 (RIA Novosti) – Seasoned politician Ramazan Abdulatipov was elected and inaugurated on Sunday as Dagestan’s leader by the republican parliament in one of Russia’s hotbeds of instability and Islamic insurgency.
Dagestan and nearby Ingushetia are Russia’s two provinces that waived direct gubernatorial elections that were re-introduced last year, and opted in favor of a parliamentary vote instead.
Eighty six out of 88 lawmakers in Dagestan’s parliament cast their votes for Abdulatipov in a secret ballot, presidential envoy in the North Caucasus region Vladimir Khloponin said Sunday. Shortly after the election, Abdulatipov was sworn in as Dagestan’s head.
Dagestan is the largest republic in the North Caucasus, with almost 3 million predominantly Muslim residents that belong to dozens of ethnic groups. It is also one of the most violence-plagued Russian provinces, with nearly daily attacks on officials, law enforcement officers and civilians that claim hundreds of lives every year. The violence is also fed by an Islamist insurgency, which has been especially resilient in Dagestan and fueled two bloody separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya.
The Kremlin appointed Abdulatipov as head of Dagestan in late January after his predecessor Magomedsalam Magomedov stepped down and was appointed deputy chief of President Vladimir Putin’s staff in Moscow.
In a tradition established in Soviet days, top state and government positions in Dagestan are distributed on an ethnic basis. The republic’s head is usually chosen from among the two largest ethnic groups, Avar and Dargin. The 67-year-old Abdulatipov is an ethnic Avar, while his predecessor Magomedov was a Dargin.
Abdulatipov, who was the federal government’s point man on ethnic relations in the early 1990s, pledged to run for Dagestan’s top post in 1992, but never did. Throughout the 1990s he was elected to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and the upper chamber of the federal parliament, the Federation Council, from the republic and even briefly occupied the position of a deputy prime minister in the federal government.
In 2005, Abdulatipov became an ambassador to the Central Asian country of Tajikistan. In 2009, he returned to Moscow, where he was appointed rector of a little-known arts university. Abdulatipov moved back into federal politics in 2011 when he was elected to the State Duma on the ruling United Russia party’s ticket.