Need A Better Reason
AP/IWON.com 'reports' below.
Failed to ask Yamasa if seeing him on TV is
Would a man of "integrity" take part in a sham 'election.'
Mars Chechen Voting |
Aug 29, 12:11 PM (ET)
By MIKE ECKEL
GROZNY, Russia (AP) - Against a backdrop of war, squalor and terrorism, Chechens voted Sunday for a replacement for their assassinated president in a vote the Kremlin hopes will bring some stability to the violence-torn region. A man was killed when he attempted to blow up a polling station.
Kremlin backing has made Chechnya's top police official, Maj. Gen. Alu Alkhanov, the unquestioned favorite in the race. Russian officials have warned that Chechen rebels might stage attacks to mar the voting - a danger highlighted by the near simultaneous crashes of two jetliners last week that killed 90 people.
Traces of explosives were found in the wreckage of both jets, and there are suspicions two Chechen women conducted the suicide attacks.
In the Chechen capital Grozny, a man tried to bring a suspicious package to a polling station and when guards at the polling station asked to see it, he ran away. The package blew up and the man was killed, elections commission head Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov said in comments shown on the NTV television channel.
No other casualties were reported and the polling station continued to operate, according to NTV.
The election is part of the Kremlin's strategy to undermine support for separatist rebels - who have been fighting Russian forces for nearly five years - by inducing a sense of civil order in the ruined southern republic.
The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that by 2 p.m. turnout reached 42.6 percent, exceeding the 30 percent needed to make the election result valid.
Alkhanov is seeking to replace Akhmad Kadyrov, the man who was previously the key to the Kremlin's attempts to add a veneer of political stability to Chechnya. Kadyrov was brought to power in an election last October, but he was killed in a bomb blast in Grozny in May. Fighting and violent crime have continued.
The Kremlin has thrown its support heavily behind Alkhanov, amid a field of seven candidates. When Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Kadyrov's grave last week, state television showed Alkhanov beside him. Alkhanov appears frequently on television newscasts while the other candidates are rarely, if ever, seen. Officials in the Moscow-backed Chechen government barred Alkhanov's only serious challenger from running.
In Urus-Martan, Alkhanov's hometown 20 miles south of Grozny, campaign posters for him were attached to an elections commission banner that urged Chechens to "Vote for peace."
Uvais Pintashev, who works in a small snack shop across from a polling station in Urus-Martan, said he voted for Alkhanov. "Of course we voted for him," said Pintashev, whose house was ruined in fighting in 1999. "There's no question he has won; he won long ago. Whatever Moscow says will be, will be."
"Who the devil else am I going to vote for?" said construction worker Hansol Martinaeyev, standing outside one Grozny polling station. Unemployed for five years, he lives with his wife and three children in an eighth floor apartment overlooking the station, without windows, electricity, water, or an elevator.
As he spoke, a burst of gunfire was heard in the distance.
The lack of any real opposition to Alkhanov has led human rights group and many Chechens to assume the election result was inevitable, as was last year's election of Kadyrov.
"He's a man of integrity ... I see him on television," said Tashtyela Yarnasa, a 65-year-old pensioner, said of AlKhanov before she voted at a heavily guarded school in the eastern Chechen town of Oiskhara.
"People are sick of the fighting," Yarnasa said. "I'm hoping there won't be any more war."
Recent weeks indicate that Chechen separatists remain determined in their fight. Earlier this month, 30 people were reported killed in a night of attacks on police stations and patrols in Grozny, the capital.
In addition, the elections were shadowed by Tuesday's downing of the two aircraft. Officials say traces of explosives were found in the wreckage of both planes and that they are investigating two Chechen women who were among the passengers - one on each plane.
The muted response of Putin's government to these revelations suggests it does not want to mar the election by highlighting any embarrassing security lapse. Government claims that Chechnya is under control have been undermined by persistent rebel strikes.
Connecticut-sized Chechnya, a mainly Muslim territory in southern Russia, went through a devastating 1994-96 war until Russian forces withdrew, leaving it effectively independent.
The Russians swept back into Chechnya in September 1999 after Chechen rebels raided neighboring regions and were blamed for bombings that killed some 300 people at apartment buildings in Russian cities.
Stalemated in battle, the Kremlin publicly is aiming its strategy at undermining the rebels through civil means - restoring services, holding elections, promising to compensate returning refugees.
Chechnya's more than 1 million residents live in a largely dysfunctional region. Unemployment is near 75 percent. Electricity and telephone service are largely nonexistent. Tens of thousands of people have fled, mostly to neighboring Ingushetia. Hundreds have disappeared in kidnappings blamed on separatist fighters, Russian forces and allied paramilitaries.