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Chechnya: Kadyrov Has Large Lead In Presidential Election

Grozny, 6 October 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Kremlin-backed candidate Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov looks set for an overwhelming first-round victory in Chechnya's controversial presidential election. Electoral officials said preliminary results showed Kadyrov, the current pro-Russian administrator of Chechnya, winning more than 83 percent of the votes cast in Sunday's election, trouncing nearest rivals Abdula Bugayev and Shamil Burayev.

No major incidents were reported during the voting. Voter turnout was put at 86 percent of the more than 561,000 eligible voters.

Official results are expected to be announced later today.

The Russian government has promoted the election as an important step toward a political solution to the years of conflict between Russian troops and Chechen separatist rebels.

But critics have condemned the vote as a farce, noting that all of Kadyrov's major rivals were disqualified or withdrew from the race before the poll. Human rights groups and international organizations have also said the poor security situation in Chechnya was not appropriate for the holding of an election.