Chechen Election Commission head Ismail Baikhanov said on November 17 that preparations for the republic’s parliamentary elections on November 27 were virtually complete. Baikhanov told reporters in Grozny that the lists of those eligible to vote had been completed and comprised 596,000 people, including approximately 34,000 Russian military personnel and their families. The ballot papers were also ready, he said. A total of 353 candidates are running for 58 parliamentary seats, and international observers from the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Executive Committee of the CIS will be present at the elections. Baikhanov also said that security had been increased around the republic’s more than 400 polling stations.
As Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported on November 22, most European organization have declined to send observers, but a delegation from the Council of Europe will attend “to appraise the overall situation.”
The Memorial Human Rights Center and Demos Center were set to hold a press conference in Moscow on November 23 to present a report entitled, “In an atmosphere of fear: the ‘political process’ and parliamentary elections in the Chechen Republic.” According to Memorial’s website, memo.ru, the report was jointly prepared by Memorial, Demos, the International Helsinki Federation, the Federation of International Leagues on Human Rights and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
The Prava cheloveka v Rossii (“Human Rights in Russia”) website, hro.org, reported on November 22 that the report expresses the shared view of all the organizations involved in drafting the report, which the website described as follows: “The assurances of the Russian authorities that over the last several years the situation in the republic has stabilized and Chechnya had returned to peaceful life is contrary to the facts. A real settlement of the conflict is not taking place. On the contrary, the policy that the federal center is carrying out is only aggravating the ‘Chechen impasse’. An important aspect of this policy is the imitation of a political process. And the parliamentary elections set for 27 November 2005, like the previous stages of this process, are a cynical and dangerous game in an atmosphere of violence and fear.”
As Nezavisimaya gazeta noted on November 23, the main “conductor” of the Chechen parliamentary election campaign is the republic’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. “From the very beginning he put forward as the main condition for political parties’ participation in the election campaign the inclusion of his people on [their] party lists,” the newspaper wrote. “A scandal came to light only because supporters of [State Duma Deputy] Vladimir Ryzhkov from the Republican Party were offended by Ramzan Kadyrov and did not make a deal. As a result, by the way, they were not admitted to the election by the Chechen election commission. The favorite in the race is United Russia, which depends on the first vice-premier’s administrative resource. There are a lot of Ramzan Kadyrov’s supporters on the campaign list of the party of power; also on it is Ramzan’s uncle, Magomed Kadyrov.”
Meanwhile, Gen. Yevgeny Lazebin, commander of the Operational Group of Forces (OGV) in the North Caucasus, told a meeting of the Chechen Security Council that was presided over by Chechen President Alu Alkhanov on November 21 that the situation in the republic on the eve of the November 27 voting was “difficult” and that there was information that rebel fighters would attempt to “disrupt the elections” by intimidating people and “blackmailing” civil servants. According to RIA Novosti, Lazebin said the rebels had received fresh infusions of funds and would attempt to carry out “provocations” in Grozny and the Sunzhensky, Achkoi-Martan, Shali and Urus-Martan districts. First Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Chekalin, however, had earlier ruled out the possibility of attacks on polling stations or vehicles ferrying ballots to the polling stations. Chekalin told journalists that 24,000 police and military servicemen would be providing security on Election Day.
Nezavisimaya gazeta, citing the Interior Ministry’s temporary press center in the North Caucasus, reported on November 21 that two armored Ural vehicles carrying district police officers on their way to guard polling places were blown up by a homemade explosive device on the outskirts of the Shatoi district village of Sheripovo. While none of the officers were hurt, the Interior Ministry’s main directorate for the Southern Federal District refused to comment on the incident, saying there was no one available with the authority to comment on “such matters.” The newspaper noted that two election officials—Isa Temirgiraev, chairman of the precinct electoral commission in the Nozhai-Yurt district village of Shovkhal-Berd, and Baudi Chamaev, chairman of the Shali district central electoral commission—were killed the previous week.
On November 22, Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov reported that a militant who was planning to carry out attacks on polling stations on November 27 was killed in a shootout with police in the Gudermes district. According to Alkhanov, a diagram of a polling station was found on the slain rebel’s body.