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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ingushetia Picks President in 2nd Round of Voting

APNazran residents talking next to an election poster Saturday ahead of the runoff.
NAZRAN, Ingushetia -- Ingushetia, a southern republic that has absorbed the bulk of refugees from the war in Chechnya, voted for a new leader Sunday, capping a tense campaign dominated by court battles and accusations of Kremlin interference.

Sunday's second-round of voting pitted Alikhan Amirkhanov, a member of the State Duma, against Murat Zyazikov, a Federal Security Service general and deputy to President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District.

More than 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots Sunday and no violations were registered, Interfax reported, citing the republic's election commission. Preliminary results were expected Monday.

The election also pitted Ingushetia's most popular man, former President Ruslan Aushev, against the Kremlin. Aushev, a Soviet war hero in Afghanistan whose abrupt resignation on New Year's Eve forced the snap elections, accused the Kremlin of manipulating the campaign.

His resignation sparked protests by Ingush residents who begged him to stay. Aushev's favorite to replace him, Khamzad Gutsiriyev, was disqualified a day before the first round of voting April 7. Aushev then gave his backing to Amirkhanov.

In the weeks between the two rounds of voting, Aushev said Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev, used his influence to try to thwart Amikhanov's bid. Kremlin officials "have tried to impose their own candidate," Aushev said in an interview last week. "Federal officials have been using all sorts of methods to deny Amirkhanov his registration."

Amirkhanov has faced accusations in court that he bribed voters. So far, the cases have all been thrown out or withdrawn.

Aushev said Kazantsev was also behind the disqualification of Gutsiriyev, Ingushetia's former interior minister. The Supreme Court ruled that Gutsiriyev had broken campaign law by failing to take a leave of absence as the republic's top policeman.

Meanwhile, local press gave glowing coverage to Zyazikov, the Kremlin's favorite, highlighting his close ties to Putin.