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March 26th 2003 · Prague Watchdog / Timur Aliyev · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

High referendum turnout achieved thanks to "additional voter lists," declare human rights defenders

Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus - There were additional voter lists, to which were added all eligible voters not included in the basic lists, that brought the turnout to an unexpectedly high level of 85% in the Chechen constitutional referendum, asserted local human rights defenders and members of the International Helsinki Federation at a round table in Nazran on March 25.

This method is frequently used in elections, such as the recent one held in Dagestan. It is very popular because it is more or less legal, and offenders are rarely caught red-handed, explained one of staff members of the Institute for the Development of Society.

Additional voter lists are compiled by election committees to which they either add the names of people who preferred to vote at a specific polling station, or those who arrived at the polling station but, for some reason, their names had not been included in the basic list.

According to human rights defenders, this very method was the one used to falsify the final results of the March 23 referendum. In fact, they are certain that the number of people who actually came to the polls was considerably lower than the official figure specified.

Human rights defenders claim that the same people kept appearing at different polling stations; all they had to do was produce their identity cards and they were able to vote.

According to information provided by Maret Eldiyeva of "Ekho Vojny," a human rights organization, three buses went between villages in the Achkhoi-Martan district carrying passengers who cast their ballots by using these "additional voter lists".

Deliberate falsification was used as well---election committee members would throw voting slips into ballot boxes, and/or simply raised the number of voters listed in their files.

There were many cases where people were forced to vote. Shakhman Akbulatov of the human rights group, Memorial, said that in the mountain villages of Nikhaloi, Urdyukhoi and Gorgachi, soldiers threatened people with "Anyone not taking part in the referendum will be declared to be an enemy."

According to the Chechen Election Committee, about 85% of citizens registered in the voter lists actually took part in the plebiscite.

(T//E)

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