Head of Tatarstan wants to be called president

RIA Novosti / Pavel Lisitsyn
President of Russia’s republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov does not plan to change his title, despite a new law adopted last December which bans the use of the word “president” to denominate regional heads.

­“I love the name of my post,” Minnikhanov said during a news conference dedicated to his first anniversary in office. “I swore on the Constitution of Tatarstan, and the oath was, among other things, for this title.”

“Some do not like the word, but I like it,” he added, hinting at the statements made by the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, in August last year. Back then, Kadyrov put forward an initiative to change the names of regional heads, saying that there should be only one president in the country and it was high time to “put an end to the parade of presidents.” The idea found support among the leaders of all the North Caucasus republics and Buryatia. However, in Tatarstan it was taken negatively. The former president of the republic, Mintimer Shaimiev, then expressed doubts that its parliament would be willing to change the regional constitution.

But President Dmitry Medvedev supported Kadyrov’s proposal and at the end of December the State Duma adopted amendments to the law in legislative and executive bodies, under which titles of top officials cannot contain the words that are used for the denomination of the head of state.

The amendments are now partially effective, but the law will come into full force on January 1, 2015. Minnikhanov’s term of office ends in March of the same year.

In the neighboring republic of Bashkortostan, initially there was not much enthusiasm about the renaming of its top post. But its incumbent president Rustem Khamitov apparently changed his mind. During the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Bashkortostan in the State Duma on Thursday, he said that “if the law has been adopted, it should be abided by.” At the same time he added that “they are still looking for a word for the republic leader’s title”. After all, it is not the name that matters, he said. “I remain the head of the executive power in the republic, with the same set of corresponding responsibilities and functions.”