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Breakaway region holds elections

By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, June 2
The current de facto regime in South Ossetia, headed by Eduard Kokoity, seems to have remained in power after the so-called Parliamentary elections in this region on May 31. The governing Edinstvo party is predicted to gain more than 45 percent of the seats in the de facto Parliament of the Georgian breakaway region, the rest being divided between the Kokoity-loyal People’s Party and the Communist Party.

The South Ossetian opposition, which has gained no seats in the separatist Parliament, has declared that there were “numerous violations” during the elections. Russia, which is the only state that has recognised these elections as legal, has stated that the polls passed “democratically” and that the “elected Parliament will effectively resolve the problems in the country.”

Georgia states that “it is impossible to consider the elections conducted by puppet [South Ossetia] Government legitimate.” “The fact that the polls were held against the background of the ethnic cleansing conducted in this region speaks for itself; this can’t be considered a genuine election or the expression of the people’s will. This is a parody of an election and of democracy, just as the statehood ambitions of this region are,” stated the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament David Bakradze in Tbilisi on June 1. Bakradze also responded to statements by the Ossetian side that “international monitors” were observing the elections. “It’s possible that private monitors were there, but it also should be asked what they got for doing this,” underlined Bakradze. Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, told Rustavi 2 TV on May 31 that the ongoing polls in the breakaway region “in fact have nothing in common with real elections.”

The Georgian position was supported by EU President country the Czech Republic. “The EU does not accept the legality of these “elections”, nor their results. The holding of such elections is illegitimate and represents a setback in the search for a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia. The EU reiterates its firm support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” says the special statement published by Czech Foreign Ministry on Monday.

Various sources have declared that almost 80 percent of the total South Ossetia electorate turned out to vote. The Russian media states that the success of the pro-Kokoity party at the polls is explained by exploitation of its Russia-friendly image. “We are visiting homes and explaining to people that unless they vote for us Russia will desert us and Georgia will take us [South Ossetia] back,” Russian newspaper Kommersant quotes an Edinstvo activist as saying. “I’m doing this on my own, nobody asked me to. I just explain that people should support Medvedev and Putin because they gave us freedom and should vote for Jabelich [Kokoity’s nickname in South Ossetia] or wait for the Georgians to come back,” she added.

The South Ossetian polls were preceded by the local opposition accusing Kokoity of usurping power in the region and stealing Russian money destined for reconstruction after the August conflict. One of the leaders of the Ossetian opposition, Russian-backed businessman Albert Jussoev stated that Kokoity would force people to come to the polling stations.

The 31 May elections were the first polls conducted after the recognition of the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia, a step condemned by the international community. Georgia has declared these territories to be occupied by Russian troops. This is also the first time the separatist authorities of the breakaway region have held elections in areas which before the August war were under the Georgian authorities’ control, especially Akhalgori, which is one of the most heavily populated regions of South Ossetia and contains an ethnic Georgian majority. Officials in Tbilisi, however, say that the elections there were simply a formality, with the local Georgians remaining at home and not participating.