People in Chechnya are voting in a parliamentary election which Russia hopes will help cement its control over the breakaway region. Rebel leaders have denounced the poll and are not taking part but so far there has been no violence. The vote marks the culmination of a Moscow-sponsored peace process which will see Chechnya assume all the self-governing powers of other states within the Russian federation.
That does not go far enough for the rebels who want full independence for the largely muslim region. Eight parties are standing, but human rights groups say a totally free and fair poll is unlikely because of continuing violence. The vote is not being officially monitored by western observers.
Chechnya’s pro-Moscow president, Alu Alkhanov, predicted a turnout out of at least 70 percent of turnout. Few analysts doubt that candidates of Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov — the de facto pro-Moscow leader of the region will dominate the assembly. Kadyrov’s power stems from his thousands of irregular troops — most of them, like him, former rebels. They now support Russian forces in their campaign against the separatists.