Pro-Russia party takes Chechnya

A Kremlin-backed party has won the largest number of seats in Chechnya's new parliament, the region's top election official says.

    A Council of Europe mission said a climate of fear ruled

    Ismail Baykhanov, chairman of the Chechen Central Election Commission, confirmed the result of the election on Saturday, saying United Russia won 33 of the 58 seats up for grabs in the region's two-chamber parliament.

    United Russia, which dominates the federal parliament and is closely tied to Kremlin policymakers, was followed by the Communist party, which won six seats in the two chambers, and the liberal Union of Right Forces, which won four.

    The remainder of the seats were divided up among candidates running unaffiliated with political parties.

    Last Sunday's election was the fourth vote in two-and-a-half years in the region. It was also a key part of the Kremlin's argument that the region was stabilising, despite persistent violence, abductions, endemic unemployment and two separatist wars in the past decade.

    Doubts

    Despite the final results, doubts persist over the legitimacy of the vote, which Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, hailed as a big step in restoring normality.

    No international election observers monitored the poll and a fact-finding mission from the Council of Europe said the region was permeated by a "climate of fear," which made it impossible to conduct a democratic vote.

    Some observers say the parliament will be nothing more than a rubber-stamp body for the man likely to be Chechnya's next president - Ramzan Kadyrov, 29, son of Akhmad Kadyrov, the former president who was killed in a bomb attack in 2004.

    Many blame a militia controlled by Kadyrov for the increase in civilian abductions in the region. Nearly 1,700 people have been kidnapped in recent years and are still missing, government officials say.

    An estimated 100,000 civilians, soldiers and rebels have died in Chechnya since federal troops entered the region in 1994 to crush its struggle for independence.

    SOURCE: AFP


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