Dagmein Khaseinova beams with pride recalling the day her Chechen village, devastated a decade ago in a war launched by Vladimir Putin, gave the Russian ruler’s party nearly 100 percent support in a parliamentary vote this month. Her little village of Mekhketi, she said, is even on the way to winning the cash prize she says authorities have promised for the polling station registering the biggest turnout.
“We’ve already won the regional competition. In a few days we’ll hear whether we won throughout all of Chechnya,” Khaseinova, 53, said, wearing a traditional Chechen scarf over her head and squinting in the cold mountain air. “The organizers of the polling station have been promised some kind of prize money if they win,” she adds, hiding a smile. Putin’s United Russia recorded a higher percentage of votes in predominantly Muslim Chechnya, where federal troops fought two wars since the fall of the Soviet Union, than anywhere else in the country. Official results show support at 99.5% and voter turnout of 99.4%.
Nationwide, the party won just under half the votes, securing a slim majority in the State Duma. Even that outcome, critics said, was the result of ballot stuffing and fraud. Countless complaints have been filed; but not in Chechnya. Official monitors here have not lodged a single complaint of voting violations, but among many local residents, the outcome has stirred some incredulity, albeit cautiously expressed.
“United Russia is the party of Putin, and Chechnya would never vote for Putin,” said one middle-aged resident of the regional capital of Grozny, who declined to give his name for fear of retribution. “In the mind of every Chechen he is associated with the bombing that destroyed Grozny and other cities all over the region. Voting for Putin is about as absurd as any vote with a 99% outcome,” he said.
Regarding the competition between polling stations, the head of Chechnya’s Central Election Committee Ismail Baikhanov said that a competition had been organised, but only with the aim of “informing local populations, the technical equipping of polling stations and visual campaigning”.
International monitors were out in force on election day in much of Russia, and say the vote was slanted in favour of United Russia and marred by numerous instances of ballot stuffing. But they did not observe the poll in Chechnya or the rest of the North Caucasus because of security concerns over an insurgency, rooted in past wars, being waged in the region. Militants want to throw off Russian rule and create an Islamist state.
Russia sent troops into Chechnya in late 1994 to try to crush a drive for independence. Much of Grozny was flattened in heavy fighting but the army struggled to quell separatist rebels fighting a guerrilla war in the mountains. Thousands of troops and fighters were killed, and various estimates put the civilian death toll in the tens of thousands, before the demoralised Russian army withdrew. Many more people who had their homes destroyed were displaced.
When Putin launched a second war in 1999 that established federal control over Chechnya after a period of de facto independence, Makhketi in Chechnya’s Vedeno region saw some of the fiercest fighting.
Full Article: Ballot stuffing suspected in Russian election | WORLD News.