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South Ossetian residents demand a referendum over Kokoity’s third term

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, June 15
A group of South Ossetian residents gathered in Tskhinvali at the de facto Supreme Court building to demand that the court hold a referendum on whether a person should be able to take a presidential post for the third term in row. The referendum initiative group has proposed asking another question to the “citizens” of South Ossetia as well – whether Russian and Ossetian languages should be announced as “state” languages in Georgia’s breakaway region.

“We have gathered here to support our President. We hope that the Supreme Court will make a positive decision and that the referendum will be held. Our nation has right to choose which language to speak and who to elect as a president,” information agency Osinform quoted one of the rally participants, Ludmila Dochieva as saying.

According to the member of the referendum initiative group, Zara Chochieva, the current “president”, Eduard Kokoity should “finish the work he has started in terms of South Ossetia’s economic development and further international recognition of the Republic.” “President, together with the nation achieved independence, but he should finalise the work that he has started. If the nation will demand this, the president has no right to reject. We should be recognized by other countries as well,” Chochieva told Osinform news agency.

The initiative group has released a special statement, calling on the de facto President to “listen to the opinion of the nation.” “The aim of the referendum is not only keeping the current president in power, but maintaining his course on independence, democratic development and further strengthening of the links with Russia,” the statement reads “We will always be grateful to Russia, will always remember and appreciate its contribution to maintaining the South Ossetian nation,” it continues.

The de facto President has said that he will not run for presidency regardless of the court's decision. He has reiterated his position, voiced earlier in May. Speaking to the information agency RES, Kokoity commented on the information disseminated by various media outlets about an initiative to hold a referendum on giving one more term to the de facto President. “I remain devoted to my words and I am not going to raise my candidacy for the third presidential term at the upcoming elections,” Kokoity noted “I will not let anyone to violate constitution. The transition of power will be held strictly within the legislative dates,” he added.

The initiative of holding a referendum to find out the opinion of the population on re-electing Kokoity for the third term, belongs to the de facto Deputy Defence Minister of South Ossetia, Ibragim Gaseev. He said the initiative has been “widely supported” by the population. He has promised to provide “absolute transparency” of the referendum and guarantee “trustworthiness and objectivity” of the results.

Kokoity, whose term expires in November 2011, has ruled out the possibility of running for a third term, citing that he “respects the constitution.” Tbilisi considers elections in Georgia’s breakaway region as “illegitimate.”