New president rekindles hope of revival in Chechnya
The pro-Moscow Alu Alkhanov registered a landslide victory in Sunday's presidential election in Russia's Chechen republic, relighting the hopes for stabilization and economic revival in the war-ravaged region.
Alkhanov is assured of winning the presidency by garnering 73.48 percent of the ballots in the election, held to pick a successor to the Kremlin-backed president Akhmad Kadyrov who was killed in a terrorist bomb blast on May 9.
The Sunday vote is significant to Moscow's decade-old effort tobring the rebellious Muslim republic back under central control and is expected to normalize the situations in Chechnya that is wracked by war, crime and poverty.
HARDLINER AGAINST REBELS, ADVOCATOR OF ECONOMIC REVIVAL
As a staunch Kremlin ally in the fight against Chechen separatists, the tough-talking current Interior Minister has insisted that he would not hold negotiations with Maskhadov but would try to make rebels surrender.
The winner of the election reaffirmed his stand on Monday, saying "Maskhadov and Wahhabism have no future in Chechnya."
Facing Maskhadov's threats that the new Chechen president will become the next assassination targets, Alkhanov pledged that even if he was killed, "another man will come and continue our course of terminating terrorism, Wahhabism and banditism."
Tall, stocky and mustached, Alkhanov is a career police official dating from the Soviet era. Unlike onetime rebel supporter Kadyrov who fought against Russian rule in the 1990s andlater switched sides, he has never allied himself with the separatists.
As a favorite of both Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and the Chechen administration, Alkhanov has vowed to carry on Kadyrov's policies and to treat security and social stability as top priorities while trying to restore the tattered economy and improve people's life.
Being aware of his victory in the vote, Alkhanov vowed earlier Monday that Chechnya will strive for broader economic powers in order to overcome its deep-rooted economic crisis.
The ambitious new president plans to keep all revenues instead of the current 49 percent from its oil exports for restoration campaign and Putin has made an unprecedented approval to the proposal before the election.
The new government will create no less than 150,000 job opportunities for the people in the next five years, according to Alkhanov.
He also promised that the republic will develop within the Russian Federation under the Constitution and it does not seek special status.
Chechnya's more than 1 million residents live in a deeply troubled condition. Nearly three-quarters of the population is jobless, electricity and telephone service are largely nonexistent,and tens of thousands of people have fled while hundreds have disappeared in frequent kidnappings.
FUTURE CAREER GETS EXPANSIVE SUPPORT
Hand-picked by Putin, Alkhanov has won Kremlin's clear support and appeared alongside the Russian leader repeatedly on state-run television.
Alkhanov's crushing victory in the election has been widely hailed both by officials from Kadyrov's clan and the Russian authorities, which would assist the new Chechen leader in conquering formidable tasks.
"Alkhanov is a deserving, principled, and deeply decent man whowas not afraid to take responsibility for the fate of Chechnya andits people at the most difficult moment," said acting Chechen President Sergei Abramov Monday.
Abramov expressed the belief that Alkhanov is adamant to realize objectives stipulated by Putin and the course defined by Kadyrov.
Musa Umarov, a senator representing Chechnya in the Federation Council, or Russia's upper chamber, believes that Alkhanov is a "uniting figure" who will be able to bring together not only the population of the republic, but also influential representatives of the Chechen emigre community and businessmen.
Boris Gryzlov, speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament State Duma, said the results of the Sunday race indicate that Chechen residents want the republic's economy to be restored and living conditions improved as soon as possible.
Chechen Islamic officials and North Caucasus Muslims have also promised their support to the future restoration efforts undertaken by the new president.
Chechnya won de-facto independence in 1996 after the pullout ofRussian troops. Federal soldiers returned to the lawless republic in September 1999 and a guerrilla war between Chechen rebels and Russian forces continues to claim lives almost on a daily basis and occasionally spreads into neighboring regions.
Rebel attacks have become increasingly rampant in Chechnya after Kadyrov's death. However, the Sunday race proceeded in a generally calm atmosphere without outbreak of major violence or separatist attacks as earlier feared, thanks to heightened security measures.
The new Chechen leader now faces a complex but "important" taskof pursuing "stabilization, peaceful existence and restoration" inone of the world's most troubled regions, Alkhanov noted at a Monday press conference.
"I feel an enormous burden of responsibility, I feel no euphoria. There is a clear understanding that a lot of hard work is ahead."
Political Research Institute director Sergei Markove noted that"the revival of Chechnya will continue under the leadership of Alkhanov although it will take place in several decades."
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