Ingushetia Poll Marked by Violations, Opposition Says

NAZRAN, Russia, Feb 28 — Preliminary poll results on Monday showed that General Ruslan Aushev was headed for re-election as president of the volatile southern Russian republic of Ingushetia.

Opponents accused Aushev, whose army of uniformed police patrolled the polling stations, of securing victory in the north Caucasian republic by force and trickery.

According to the official results released early on Monday evening, 94 percent voted for Afghan war veteran
Aushev and only four percent for opposition candidate Bamatgirei Mankiev.

Almost 98 percent also approved Aushev’s proposed constitution, which gives the president sweeping powers.

The presidential elections were announced only a week and a half ago – giving opposition candidates 10 days to campaign.

Mankiev, the only other candidate, was refused direct air time in local broadcast media while newspapers ignored him altogether.

“There is no real alternative to Ruslan Aushev,” read the headline in the Caucasus News newspaper. Its article, signed by “the editors” did not mention the existence of another candidate.

“These people are not ready for freedom,” Aushev told Reuters, explaining why his proposed constitution gave him almost unlimited powers.

‘This region isn’t like the West. The West has a high level of education, culture, long-lived democratic traditions.”

Local journalists said they saw no point in interviewing Mankiev because he would lose anyway and on Sunday night there were no local journalists at the opposition’s headquarters.