Chechnya’s Soviet-era legislature voted yesterday to begin the elections in the republic tomorrow, three days ahead of schedule. It also passed an electoral law requiring a minimum turnout of 25 percent for a valid election of a "head of the republic," and a simple majority of that 25 percent for a winner to be declared. Moreover the law authorizes "mobile precincts" for both the regional and the federal election, and dispenses with electoral registers by authorizing voters to cast ballots at any polling station irrespective of the voters’ place of residence. The Internal Affairs Ministry is authorized to carry the ballot boxes to a central repository for counting the votes. Russian and Western correspondents report that most residents in Russian-controlled towns are unwilling to vote. (12) In Grozny and in other Chechen towns there has been virtually no sign of an electoral campaign. The stage is set for a fraudulent exercise.
Recent days have witnessed an outpouring of anti-war actions by Russian democrats, sparked by Human Rights Day December 10 and the anniversary of the military invasion December 11, but set to continue. Andrei Sakharov’s widow Yelena Bonner called on the Council of Europe to suspend Russia’s admission until it stops the war in Chechnya. At a protest meeting in Moscow, Russia’s Democratic Choice leader and former prime minister Yegor Gaidar termed the war in Chechnya as "Yeltsin’s most tragic mistake," which severely undermined the position of reformers. At a another meeting, Duma defense committee chairman Sergei Yushenkov, Yeltsin’s representative to parliament Aleksandr Yakovlev (the former adviser to Mikhail Gorbachev), and human rights commissioner Sergei Kovalev urged the political parties and the public to apply pressure on president and the government in order to end the use of force in Chechnya. Pointing to the war’s ultimate stake, Kovalev said that it is both a symptom and a catalyst of Russia’s "transformation into a police state" instead of a law-based state. The Soldiers’ Mothers’ Committee took credit for having temporarily stopped the escalation but called for redoubled efforts. All these meetings, as well as the Moscow Helsinki and Memorial societies, demanded the cancellation of elections in Chechnya. A galaxy of veteran dissidents and democratic journalists announced their participation in the work of the International Public Tribunal due to open hearings in Stockholm December 15. (13)
Zhirinovsky Warns West.