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US Criticizes Chechnya Elections as 'Flawed' - 2004-08-30


The United States says Sunday's elections in Chechnya, won in a landslide by a Kremlin-backed candidate, were seriously flawed and fell short of international standards.

The Chechnya election was held with few incidents of trouble and reportedly attracted 80 percent of eligible voters to the polls. But officials here say the process, marred by the disqualification of the leading non-Moscow-backed candidate, was faulty and did little if anything to advance hopes for a settlement of the Chechnya conflict.

The election, to replace Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow Chechen president killed in a bomb attack last May, was ostensibly a landslide victory for Kremlin-backed career policeman Alu Alkanov who drew more than 70 percent of votes cast. His closest rival among six other candidates had less that ten percent.

At a new briefing, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said there were "serious flaws" in the electoral process, especially in the disqualification "on a mere technicality" of Mr. Alkhanov's leading competitor, Malik Saidullayev, a month ago.

Mr. Boucher said while there were no U.S. or other western monitors of the vote, it is evident from press reports that it "did not meet international standards for a democratic election." He said as such, Mr. Alkanov's task in trying to unify the war-torn region will be difficult.

"Mr. Alkanov now faces the difficult task of broadening support among the people of Chechnya, of bringing pluralism into the political process, and finding ways to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the conflict," he said. "And we call on him and others to address themselves to those fundamental tasks, which remain unresolved by this election. We also call for an end to human rights abuses in Chechnya by all parties, and urge that those who committed such abuses be held accountable."

Russia has been fighting separatists in Chechnya for more than a decade and currently has about 80,000 troops in the region.

Chechen rebels who claimed responsibility for the killing of Mr. Kadyrov have vowed to target any new pro-Moscow leader.

Spokesman Boucher said the United States supports a political settlement of the conflict that recognizes that Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, while also creating conditions for a more normal life based on democratic principles that end terrorism and protect human rights.

He said the United States will continue to press Moscow and other parties to the conflict focus attention on bringing "real pluralism" to the political process and finding ways to achieve a political settlement.

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