Staged RAIPON election taints 7th Congress
More than 600 indigenous representatives from 35 regions of the Russian Federation met in Salekhard, Yamal-Nenets AO for the 7th Congress of indigenous peoples of the North, Siberia and Far East at the end of March. Indigenous representatives elected a new president for RAIPON – the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North – which is IWGIA’s key partner in Russia. However, the election was tarnished by representatives voting under pressure from Russian officials, with open voting replacing the secret ballot after two rounds of voting where the Government’s favoured candidate was defeated.
The third round of voting – an open vote – elected Gregory Ledkov, an indigenous Nenets and member of Putin’s United Russia Party and the national parliament, the State Duma. Indigenous Udege from the Far East, Pavel Sulyandziga, won the first two rounds of the election with large majorities but was forced to step down due to pressure from official sources and a clear indication that his election would harm the organization. Until 2010, Sulyandziga was the first vice-president of RAIPON and member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. He is currently a member of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Sulyandziga has been a long time partner of IWGIA. The 7th Congress was preceded by considerable conflict between RAIPON and the Russian Ministry of Justice which decided to stop all RAIPON activities in November last year. Russia's indigenous representative body was allowed to reopen last month after strong international pressure and a revision of its statutes. The last months’ turmoils have strengthened the organization, leading to solidarity and increased support from members. But unfortunately this reinforced cohesion was undermined by the Congress’ elections. Nevertheless, a coalition between current president Ledkov and Sulyandziga, who has been appointed as first vice-president in the new structure, gives hope for a recovery and a strong indigenous movement in Russia. RAIPON has been a key partner in Russia for IWGIA over the past 20 years and IWGIA wishes the new president and the whole organization all the best in the coming months and years. We hope to continue our partnership built on respect and trust.
Tags: Global governance