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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Canceled Ingush Vote Blamed on Kremlin

The conflict over a canceled election in Ingushetia continued to simmer Wednesday as the republic's leader, Ruslan Aushev, blamed Moscow for disrupting the vote.

On the eve of last Sunday's vote, the republic's supreme court ruled to strike the Aushev-supported front-runner, Alikhan Amirkhanov, from the ballot. The election was then canceled when local election officials said they did not have time to change the ballots and resigned en masse.

The election was disrupted by "a group that came from Moscow to push through their decision," Interfax quoted Aushev as saying. "This very group found a member of the supreme court of Ingushetia who made this happen on the last day before the elections for State Duma deputy."

Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the Caucasus at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the supreme court judge who removed Amirkhanov from the ballot likely acted on pressure from Moscow.

"I don't believe that our judges can be independent," he said. "Despite the authority of regional leaders on their turf, Moscow has the last word."

The judge, Fatimat Buzurtanova, told Kommersant that she made her decision despite pressure from Aushev's administration to ignore complaints about Amirkhanov from other candidates.

"The head of the legal department in [Aushev's] presidential administration, Yakub Mestoyev, called me and made it understood what decision the leadership wanted from me," the newspaper quoted her as saying.

Mestoyev denied putting pressure on Buzurtanova, Interfax reported.

Both Buzurtanova and Vakha Yevloyev, one of the other candidates, said that before a decision was made, local television announced that Amirkhanov had been left on the ballot. They characterized this as a form of pressure on the court.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Yevloyev said Wednesday he hoped the Central Election Commission would rule for the vote to be held soon.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin should of course look into the situation, because the republic of Ingushetia is part of the Russian Federation," Yevloyev said.

Yevloyev said he supported the court's decision. "Amirkhanov himself and his aides bought votes with flour, sugar and money," he said.

The Union of Right Forces, or SPS, of which Yevloyev is a local leader, asked CEC chairman Alexander Veshnyakov to disband Ingushetia's election commission.

"We [SPS] hope that the Central Election Commission will make a decision that will prevent the incident in Ingushetia from spreading to other regions," said Duma Deputy Eduard Vorobyov.

Veshnyakov has already criticized the local election officials, saying their excuse that they did not have time to change the ballots was not legitimate. The CEC is scheduled to discuss the situation Friday.