Kremlin-staged parliamentary elections take place in Chechnya
By Tomáš Vršovský
PRAGUE - After nearly nine years, the Chechen people today were able to vote in local parliamentary elections. However, the separatists were not invited take part in this Kremlin-staged event and some experts forecast that the vote will only be an imitation of a true political resolution to the conflict.
For the 58 available seats, 345 members of eight Russian parties and independent candidates are competing. There are nearly 597,000 eligible voters, including 34,000 Russian military personnel and their families stationed in Chechnya.
Ismail Baykhanov, the Chechen election commission chairman said the turnout was nearly 57 percent, which was more than enough needed for votes to be considered valid. However, independent monitors cast doubts on the official figure. No incidents were reported during the election and the preliminary results will be announced on Monday.
Apart from Russian monitors, the election is being monitored by six official foreign observers, representing the League of Arab Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States; no western organization is represented. Only a "fact-finding mission" sent by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is now present in Chechnya to evaluate the situation.
According to the Kremlin, these elections should complete the political resolution process of the Chechen conflict, which was started by the adoption a new constitution in 2003 and two subsequent presidential elections. However, observers said those votes were far from being democratic and free and several critics even spoke about election rigging. Some experts as well as members of human rights organizations warned that the parliamentary elections would only imitate a political process and would not be able to end hostilities and bring about stability to Chechnya.
The parliament of the Chechen Republic will consist of two chambers: the Council of the Republic with 18 MPs and the People’s Assembly with 40 MPs. Until a parliament building will be erected for them, they will work in the State Council of the Chechen Republic, located in the heavily guarded government complex in Grozny.
The previous parliamentary elections took place on November 27, 1997 and were held under the auspices of the OSCE, together with presidential elections in which Aslan Maskhadov became President. In May 2000 Parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Alikhadzhiyev was kidnapped in Shali by Russian soldiers and has not been heard of since. He is believed to have died in prison.
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