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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Q&A: The Chechen election
Opinion polls suggest turnout will be 65-70%
Official posters remind Chechens to vote on 29 August

Chechens go to the polls on Sunday to elect a president to replace Akhmad Kadyrov, assassinated in May in the capital Grozny.

Of the seven candidates Interior Minister Alu Alkhanov is seen as Kremlin favourite and most likely to win.

The Chechen separatists - still fighting Russian troops in the devastated republic - have dismissed the election as a farce.

Q: What is the system?

To win in the first round a candidate must gain 50% of the total plus one vote, provided turnout is at least 50%. Otherwise a run-off is held between the two candidates with most votes in the first round. Whoever gets most votes in the run-off wins.

To register, a candidate must collect at least 6,000 signatures or pay a deposit of about $150,000.

The Election Commission endorsed seven candidates and disqualified two. The barring of prominent Chechen politician and businessman Malik Saydullayev, for an alleged "error" in his passport, was seen by some as a bid to ensure victory for the Kremlin favourite.

The election is a realistic step towards ending the crisis and promoting peace and accord
Candidates' signed declaration

Twenty regional election commissions and 426 polling stations have been set up. About 565,000 voters are expected to take part.

Q: Who is standing?

As the campaign kicked off the seven candidates signed a declaration pledging fair play and accepting that the poll is a "realistic step towards civil peace and accord".

Alu Alkhanov, the favourite, graduated from the USSR Interior Ministry Academy and worked in the Chechen-Ingush Interior Ministry in Soviet times.

Mr Alkhanov is backed by the Kremlin and prominent Chechens
Major-General Alu Alkhanov is favourite to win

After the fall of the USSR Mr Alkhanov opposed separatist Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev. From 1995 to 1996 he headed the transport police in Chechnya. Russian sources say he put up stiff resistance to militants storming Grozny in 1996 and was decorated for bravery.

After the rebels took over he left Chechnya for Russia, returning as transport police chief from 2000 until he was appointed Chechen interior minister in April 2003.

Supporters of slain President Kadyrov chose Mr Alkhanov as their candidate in June. In July he was made head of a new watchdog to curb misuse of central funds. He is backed by some influential Chechens, including acting president Sergey Abramov and the son of Akhmad Kadyrov, Ramzan.

Movsar Khamidov worked in the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) until May 2002, when he was made Chechen deputy prime minister with responsibility for security.

In December 2003 he was put in charge of a special commission to probe kidnappings in Chechnya. Then he became head of a commission to monitor compensation for those who lost homes in Chechen fighting.

In April 2004 President Kadyrov abolished all seven deputy prime minister posts, but suggested Mr Khamidov would get a ministerial post in charge of security.

Mr Bugayev is a pro-Moscow academic
Historian Abdullah Bugayev served in local government in Soviet times

Abdullah Bugayev was for many years a history lecturer at Grozny University. He heads a branch of the Modern Humanitarian Academy, a non-commercial educational establishment.

A former member of the Soviet Chechen-Ingush government, he opposed the leadership of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

He registered as a candidate in the last Chechen presidential election in 2003. He is said to have disagreed with Akhmad Kadyrov over methods of settling the Chechen crisis.

The other candidates are: Umar Abuyev, director-general of the Chechen Petrochemical Company; Vakha Visayev, a former Chechen presidential aide from the town of Gudermes; Mukhmud-Khasan Asakov, an official on the Chechen State Council; and Magomed Aydamirov, a businessman from the village of Tolstoy-Yurt.

Opinion poll conducted by Chechen government in August
69.2% of respondents to vote
23% still undecided
8% say will not vote
53.5% to vote for Alu Alkhanov
19.4% to reject all candidates

Q: What of the campaign?

The campaign has been low-key, with few candidates bothering to take advantage of free election broadcasts on offer. This is thought to be because an Alkhanov victory appears a foregone conclusion.

Mr Alkhanov is frequently shown on Russian TV in his role as head of the Chechen funding watchdog. He stresses he will continue the policies of the late President Kadyrov.

His policies include: Chechnya's continued status as part of Russia; economic autonomy; attracting aid and investment; cutting unemployment and the Russian military presence; opening talks with separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov.

Q: What's the view from Moscow?

At first the Kremlin seemed undecided which candidate to back, until Alu Alkhanov emerged as frontrunner in June.

Akhmad Kadyrov (left) with son Ramzan (archive pic)
Akhmad Kadyrov (left) was killed in May - his son Ramzan (right) runs a controversial militia

Russian nationalists and figures linked to the military have called for the election to be cancelled and a "governor-general" to run Chechnya instead.

But President Vladimir Putin was adamant the election must go ahead. Russian media have made it clear Mr Alkhanov is the Kremlin's choice.

Q: What do the separatists think?

Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov has dismissed all Russian-sponsored elections and referendums in Chechnya as a "farce".

His view is that Moscow will decide the outcome and whoever wins will only end up implementing Kremlin directives.

The rebel Chechenpress news agency has denounced the Council of Europe's decision to send monitors, saying it is playing along with Russia's "game".

Q: What's the security situation?

Acts of sabotage in Chechnya have not abated and rebels continue to engage Russian troops in bitter, if sporadic fighting.

In July Aslan Maskhadov used a rebel website to threaten the next president with assassination. A week later the acting president, Sergey Abramov, survived an attack on his motorcade in Grozny.

The commander of Russia's airborne assault troops in Chechnya, Lt-Gen Aleksandr Kolmakov, said in early August the Chechen authorities were failing to stabilise the situation.

Q: Will there be observers?

The Russian authorities say some 20 international observers will monitor the election. They include representatives of the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the CIS Executive Committee.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) declined to send monitors, citing security concerns. Human rights activists such as the Moscow Helsinki Group have expressed doubt as to whether the election will be fair.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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