Grozny Elections Declared Invalid

GROZNY -- Elections for mayor of the Chechen capital of Grozny were declared invalid because not enough people voted and there were voting irregularities, officials said Monday.

Less than a third of voters cast ballots, making the election invalid because more than 50 percent must vote under local law to make the ballot valid, city officials said.

There were also irregularities during the vote Saturday. One Grozny polling station had no ballots, while another station had improper ballots, said Markha Avdayeva, deputy chief of the city election commission.

Avdayeva wouldn't say when a repeat vote would take place.

Mumadi Saidayev, chairman of Chechnya's Central Election Commission, acknowledged there had been irregularities, attributing them to the shortage of funds and printing problems.

The government could spend only $150,000 to organize the elections -- only one-fifthof what was needed, he said. Saidayev said there were 161 polling stations in the capital.

A dozen candidates were competing in the election, the first municipal ballot since the republic's war for independence ended last year. Among the candidates was Grozny's current mayor, Lecha Dudayev, who is a nephew of the late separatist leader, Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Municipal elections were held throughout Chechnya on Saturday, and in some districts voters also cast ballots to fill empty seats in the national parliament. Saidayev said the results would be released later this week.

Also on Saturday, Chechnya held parliamentary elections for 20 seats in addition to the 43 already filled. Chechnya has a total of 460,000 registered voters, and no minimum turnout was required to make the elections valid.

Russian troops withdrew from the secessionist republic last fall following a bloody two-year war that began when Moscow sent in tanks to quell a growning separatist movement.

The two sides signed a formal peace treaty last month, but Chechnya's political status remains unresolved: the republic considers itself an independent state, while Moscow insists it remains part of Russia.

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