Moscow-Backed Candidate Wins Chechen Election

During his first press conference as president, Alu Alkhanov vowed to improve Chechnya’s failing economy and create 150,000 new jobs within five years.

“We are one team and together we will solve all pressing problems. Come here [Chechnya] at the end of 2005 and you will see that a lot is fresh, a lot is new,” he said according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

Alkhanov, the former head of transport police in the Chechen capitol Grozny, was reported to have won more than 73 percent of the vote with voter turnout in excess of 85 percent, according to Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov, Chechen elections commission head.

Observers doubted those results, citing empty polling stations and other suspicious circumstances.

A representative of Movsur Khamidov, another presidential candidate, said he found ballot boxes stuffed full not long after the polls opened, the Guardian, a London-based newspaper reported.

Rebels denounced Alkhanov’s victory before the results were tallied.

“Like last time, the authorities will be signing the death warrant of the man they pick. Neither elections, nor Russia’s current politics in Chechnya will bring the desired results,” the rebels said in a statement.

Sundays’ election to replace Akhmad Kadyrov, who was killed in May by a bomb, came days after two Russian planes crashed killing all 90 aboard. Investigators found traces of the explosive hexogen on both planes, but have not conclusively linked those attacks to any group. Investigators are said to be focusing on two Chechen women who were aboard the planes.

Watchdog groups observing the election, such as the Moscow Helsinki Group, condemned the election.

“This second episode of the show ‘Election for President in the Chechen republic’ is nothing but a bitter dejavu. The lessons of the Kadyrov experiment have clearly not been learned,” Tanya Lokshina from the Helsinki Group said in a statement.

The government maintains the election was legitimate.

“The election went off calmly and democratically and the organization was good,” said an Arab League observer, who was quoted by the Russian RIA news agency.

In the only violent episode on Sunday, a 25-year-old Chechen man detonated a bomb, killing himself, when police tried to keep him from entering a polling station in Grozny, Reuters reported.

Chechen rebels and Russian forces have been fighting for five years in the depressed region where three-quarters of the population is unemployed and electric and telephone service are sparse.

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