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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vote's Cancellation in Ingushetia Draws Fire

The Prosecutor General's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the last-minute cancellation of an election in Ingushetia, Central Election Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov said Monday.

A by-election to choose a State Duma deputy from the republic was canceled Sunday after the republic's Supreme Court took the expected winner, who enjoyed the support of Ingushetia's president, off the ballot.

The court struck Alikhan Amirkhanov from the ballot after ruling that he had bought votes.

Local election officials said they canceled the vote because the court ruling late Saturday left them no time to change the ballots.

Veshnyakov said that was not a valid reason to cancel an election. "It takes no more than a second" to cross out a candidate's name, he said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Ingush President Ruslan Aushev said he supported the decision to cancel the elections, but not the decision of the court.

"The decision of the Supreme Court of Ingushetia violates the rights of many voters. By all forecasts, Alikhan Amirkhanov had a 100 percent chance of winning these elections," Aushev was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Amirkhanov was endorsed by Aushev, who dresses in military fatigues and is said to favor an authoritarian style of governing.

"The Ingush are used to being told who to vote for. President Aushev didn't disappoint them and told his people clearly: Amirkhanov," the newspaper Kommersant said Saturday.

NTV reported that many people came to the polling stations Sunday only to find the doors locked.

Aushev said Monday he was angered by the federal reaction to the cancellation of the vote.

"All this hysteria coming from Moscow testifies to the presence in the capital of certain forces that would like to run the republic," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Ingushetia was one of the regions singled out by President Vladimir Putin in May, when he began his campaign to rein in the governors.

A week before announcing his plan to strengthen the "vertical power structure" in the country, Putin canceled a decree that was issued by Aushev but did not correspond to federal law.

Aushev said that prosecutors in Ingushetia were conducting their own investigation into the election controversy.

"There are facts pointing to ulterior motives that the judge himself may have had," he said.

Veshnyakov said 1.5 million rubles ($53,437) from the federal budget had been spent on the elections in Ingushetia and that it could be a year before new ones are held, Interfax reported.