Thursday, December 01, 2005

Slow Vote - II


Another report I've translated for the Prague Watchdog, this time one by Umalt Chadayev, who says that the results of the parliamentary elections in Chechnya were as predicted:
CHECHNYA - The Chechen parliamentary elections organized by the Moscow-backed authorities have passed off without sensation. Almost all the predictions of observers were confirmed. The Chechen parliament has become "Kadyrovite".

As expected, victory in the elections went to "United Russia", which received an absolute majority of seats in the parliament. The parliament is now composed exclusively of this pro-Kremlin party plus the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), each of which, if we are to believe the preliminary data of the Chechen Central Electoral Commission, received 11% of the vote, while "United Russia" was supported by more than 61% of voters.

Human rights workers dispute electoral commission’s data

In spite of the fact that the majority of Chechen citizens ignored the November 27 elections, the authorities declared them to have "taken place". Moreover, the Chechen electoral commission spoke of "the high activity of citizens during the day of voting" and said the turnout exceeded 60%.

Particular emphasis is being placed on the fact that no complaints by observers reached the electoral commission, and that voting took place in a situation of calm. However, journalists and representatives of NGOs who visited the electoral districts say that the reverse is true.

"According to the observations of our staff who monitored the situation at the polling stations in Grozny, there was no ‘high activity’ of citizens during the day of voting", says a representative of the "Memorial" human rights centre.

"At practically all the polling stations the turnout during the first half of the day, which is the time when most citizens usually go to cast their vote, was only 5-10%. In the villages these numbers might be higher, say 20-25%, because the candidates who were standing there were supported by neighbours, relatives and friends."

Meanwhile the Chechen leadership and the representatives of the electoral commission announced that 25% of voters had already participated in the elections by noon on November 27. High-ranking officials asserted that the elections were "open, democratic and transparent".

"What kind of democracy can one speak of if the names of many of the future deputies were known a minimum of twenty-four hours in advance? Thus, for example, as early as November 26 we received information that in constitutency No. 7 of Kurchaloy District, where Ayshat Israpilova and Salman Zakriyev were standing as candidates for election to the Republic’s Council (the upper house), Zakriyev "would get in", since he is Ramzan Kadyrov’s brother-in-law," says the worker of "Memorial".

"In the adjacent constituency of the same district, where three candidates were standing for election – Arbi Esembayev, Adam Khamidov and Aslanbek Aydamirov – the person supposed to be elected was Aydamirov, who is the brother of Kadyrov’s wife," he says.

"That is precisely what happened. Already on the evening of November 28 it became known that these two candidates [Zakriyev and Aydamirov] had been ‘elected’ as deputies."

This time the elections were held without refugees

The Chechen refugees who live in temporary accommodation on the territory of Ingushetia, and who according to different estimates comprise from 23,000 to 40,000 people, were not involved in the voting this time.

While during the referendum on the republic’s constitution (in 2003) ballot boxes were provided in the refugee camps, and during the elections of presidents Akhmad Kadyrov and Alu Alkhanov (in 2003 and 2004 respectively) special buses were laid on to take the refugees to the polling stations in Chechnya, this time the authorities simply ignored the forced migrants.

"No one is really interested in our opinion," considers 44-year-old Aslambek Sardalov. "The authorities only remember us when they need to conduct some routine loud-mouthed campaign about ‘the voluntary return of refugees to the motherland’, or ask the international community for the next tranche of aid for the needy refugees, which seldom ever reaches us."

"This time they [the Chechen authorities] didn’t even consider it necessary to make it look as though the conditions had been created for the refugees to take part in the elections. Even though I don’t think people would travel to this ‘event’, nevertheless... Actually, for us it was no secret that the results of these elections were determined in advance, and that this parliament will be composed only of people whom the ‘Kadyrov team’ has appointed."
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