PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BEGAN IN CHECHNYA

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GROZNY, August 29. (RIA Novosti) - Polling stations in the Russian constituent republic of Chechnya opened for the presidential election at 8:00 AM Moscow time. The election was appointed for Sunday to elect a new head of the republic as Chechnya's president Akhmad Kadyrov had been killed in a terrorist attack in Grozny on May 9.

The Election Commission of Chechnya told RIA Novosti that there were almost 600,000 registered voters.

Seven candidates are running for Chechen presidency. In compliance with the regional legislation, the election will be legitimate if the turnout is more than 30%. The successful candidate has to collect more than a half of cast votes. Should no candidate turn out to have that much support, there will be a runoff voting in three weeks, in which two best runners of the previous tour will face each other.

Chairman of the Election Commission of Chechnya Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov said that the republic was well prepared for the election: all 430 polling stations had enough ballot boxes and cabins, the polling stations were guarded by the police round the clock, and transportation and telecommunications for local election commissions had been thought of, he said.

According to him, preliminary outcome of the voting will be available as soon as Monday, while officially the election will be concluded several days later, as soon as the Election Commission receives protocols from all local commissions. Arsakhanov said that the "voting results will be open and the procedure will be transparent."

Together with local residents, about 25,000 military personnel from units permanently stationed in Chechnya will also vote in the election. Chechen voters temporarily displaced to adjacent regions - Ingushetia, Dagestan, and Stavropol region - will also have an opportunity to cast their votes. There will be buses to transfer them to several polling stations in Chechnya.

Save State Duma and Federation Council legislators and Central Election Commission executives, two dozen international observers from the CIS Executive Committee, Arab League, Islamic Conference, Indonesia, Belarus, and other countries will monitor the election. Representatives of the Council of Europe are also expected. Over 160 Russian and foreign reporters will cover the voting procedure and counting of votes in the republic.

Spokesman for the Chechen Interior Ministry Ruslan Atsayev told RIA Novosti that all policemen of the republic - which makes a strength of over 15,000 - would be assigned to provide security during the election. The regional police had been on high alert since July and were banned from leaving their premises a fortnight ago.

According to Atsayev, the Chechen police closely coordinated its security efforts with federal army units, Russian Interior Ministry troops, and commandants' offices deployed in Chechnya.

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