Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on Thursday a decree "On the Procedure of Holding a Referendum in the Chechen Republic." The head of state announced that at the festive reception in the State Kremlin Palace on the occasion of Constitution Day in Russia.
"The electorate commission of the Chechen Republic has turned to me with a request to issue a decree on the procedure of holding a constitutional referendum. And today, in compliance with article 11 of the federal law "On the Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights," this decree has been signed," the President of Russia said.
The administration of the Chechen Republic has been offered to elaborate, within one month, measures for the financial, material and technical, and organisational support for the referendum on the draft constitution of the Chechen Republic, and also for the laws "On the Election of the President of the Chechen Republic" and "On the Elections to the Parliament of the Chechen Republic" and co-ordinate them with the government of the Russian Federation.
The Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation has been instructed to render requisite legal, methodological and organisational assistance to the Chechen electoral commission in holding the referendum.
Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Russia Alexander Veshnyakov has told journalists that the referendum on the Chechen constitution can be held as soon as March 2003.
In the coming days representatives of the Russian Central Election Commission will go to Chechnya to get acquainted with the situation. The Chechen electoral commission is supposed to send the drafts of the referendum and the law on the election of the President and the parliament of Chechnya to the head of the Chechen administration for approval. After that, Alexander Veshnyakov went on to say, if the draft corresponds to all the legal norms, the republican electoral commission will register an initiative group, which will begin to collect signatures for the holding of the referendum.
The initiative group must collect no less than 11,000 signatures of the electors. As Veshnyakov further said, after the signatures are checked, the republic commission will determine the date of the referendum.
Alexander Veshnyakov noted that the Chechen electoral commission had already organised the election of the President of Russia on the territory of the Chechen Republic in March 2000 and the election of a State Duma deputy from Chechnya in August 2000. "All this gives a possibility to prepare well for the referendum, despite the difficult situation in the republic," Veshnyakov said.
Replying to journalists' questions, Veshnyakov said that "those who have left temporarily the republic will be able to return to it and register to take part in the referendum." The voting can also be organised at the places of the compact living of forced migrants.
Speaking about international observers at the referendum, Alexander Veshnyakov said the following: "It can be said that already today we state about the possibility for international observers to watch this referendum at all the stages of its preparation so that no one has any doubts in the legality of all actions."
Russia has deployed two armies and three units of Airborne Forces to its western borders as part of a verification check, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said