Referendum on Chechen constitution to be held in March next year?

On Thursday, the head of the Russian Central Election Commission, Aleksander Veshnyakov, told journalists that the Commission would provide every assistance in arranging and holding a referendum on the constitution of the Chechen Republic, and on laws on election of the Chechen president and parliament.

Aleksander Veshnyakov said Central Election Commission officials would be dispatched to the Chechen Republic shortly to look into the situation there.

"Particular attention will be given to the necessity of observing legality of all referendum preparatory procedures," according to Mr Veshnyakov. He also indicated that the Central Election Commission would assist in organizing international monitoring of the referendum.

While commenting on the decree the President signed today to approve the provisions of referendum in Chechnya, Aleksander Veshnyakov stated that "the major organizer of the referendum will be the election commission of the Chechen Republic." According to him, in the next few days the draft laws on elections of the President and the parliament will be sent to the Chechen election commission for examination by the head of the Chechen administration. After that, according to Veshnyakov, if he finds the draft to correspond to the legal norms, the republican election commission will register the initiative group to start collecting signatures in favor of holding the referendum.

According to the Central Election Commission chief, the initiative group will have to collect not less than 11,000 signatures in Chechnya. Veshnyakov reported that once the signatures have been delivered to the Chechen election commission and verified, the republican election commission will fix the date of the referendum.

In Mr Veshnyakov's opinion, the referendum on the Chechen constitution may take place as early as in March next year. At the same time, he reminded that the referendum would take place if not less than 50% of registered voters participate in it.

Mr Veshnyakov stated that if less than half of them vote for the adoption of the constitution, it will be adopted.

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