Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chechens vote for new parliament

Chechnya is electing its first parliament since Russian troops restored Moscow's control over the region in 1999.
Russia sees the vote as a major step forward in its peace efforts, while separatist rebels dismiss it as a bid to avoid finding a real solution.
Tens of thousands have died since the rebels first tried to secede in 1991.
Human rights groups have dismissed the vote as a farce, saying the violence makes a free and fair poll impossible.
They also complain of bias in favour of the pro-Putin party United Russia.
Chechnya's pro-Moscow President, Alu Alkhanov, said on the eve of the polls that it was hard to expect the election to be "ideal by European standards because terrorist acts do occur".
But he insisted the tiny region, in the mountains of the North Caucasus, was "mature enough to hold a parliamentary election and... ready to have it".
'Flawed' elections
Eight Russian political parties are fielding candidates, while independents are also standing for the 58 seats.
The only outside observers are from Russia or the Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference, according to Chechen election officials.
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg says that the last time the people of Chechnya voted for a parliament, the rebels were in power, having humiliated the Russian army and won virtual independence.
Since the rebels were ousted, Chechens have voted for a new constitution, enshrining the region's status as part of Russia, in a vote widely seen as flawed.
In another controversial vote, they elected Mr Alkhanov, and now voters are being asked to choose MPs, most of whom are expected to be loyal to the Kremlin.
Moscow says this election is a sign that life in Chechnya is finally returning to normal after more than a decade of conflict, our correspondent says.
UK-based Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev dismissed the vote as "pseudo-elections".
The UK's Lord Judd, a former Council of Europe special rapporteur on Chechnya, said this week that the election was based on flawed premises.
"I simply do not believe we will have stability, peace and a viable future for the Chechen people until we have a real political process," he said.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 06:54:11 GMT© BBC MMV


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