Voting is under way today in Chechnya for a new president and parliament. (BBC, January 27) Voting boxes specially made in Austria and 700,000 ballot papers were delivered to polling stations last week, and about 500,000 voters are expected to take part. The election is being held in accordance with Chechnya’s electoral law. Presidential candidates must be able to speak Chechen and be Chechen citizens — a concept not recognized by Russian law. Voters indicate their choice by scoring through all the names on the ballot except that of their preferred candidate; voting against all the candidates is also an option. To prevent voters from casting ballots more than once, the hand of each voter will be marked with a dye that will take several days to wear off. This method was tested in the elections in Bosnia. A 50 percent turnout is required to validate the election, and the winner will be whoever scores 50 percent of the votes plus one; if no one achieves this score, a run-off will be held in two weeks. Originally there were 16 presidential candidates, but some of the lesser known ones have withdrawn. In addition, 833 candidates–36 of them women–are running for 63 parliamentary seats. (Itar-Tass, January 25; NTV, January 26) The elections are expected to give a further boost to Chechnya’s independence from Russia, which is favored by all the presidential candidates without exception.
Maskhadov: Russians Would Prefer an Extremist to Win.