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South Ossetia Goes to the Polls in Presidential Runoff

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, November 28
The second round of elections, a presidential runoff, was held in the breakaway region of South Ossetia on Sunday. The final round was contested by Emergency Minister Anatoly Bibilov and former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva, who received 25.44% and 25.37% of the vote respectively, in the first round on November 13.

Bibilov, the Kremlin's favorite, was received by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a recent visit to Russia's North Ossetian capital Vladikavkaz on November 21.

According to a Kremlin statement released after the meeting "President Medvedev noted that Russia was interested in South Ossetia having an efficient leadership".

In the runoff Bibilov secured backing from several of the ex-candidates, including from head of the local bread factory Vadim Tskhovrebov, who was third in the race collecting 9.9% of votes and the deputy mayor of Tskhinvali, Alan Kotaev, who received 9.6% of votes in the first round.

However, other ex-candidates, including Vladimir Kelekhsaev, who as a result of the first round gained 6.6% of votes, announced support for Alla Dzhioyeva. The latter is also supported by Russian free-style-wrestling team trainer, Jambolat Tedeev - outgoing South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity's fierce opponent, whose candidacy for president was rejected by the South Ossetian Central Election Commission on the grounds that he failed to meet the 10-year residency requirement. The commission's decision had sparked turmoil in the capital Tskhinvali.

Indeed, this pre-election campaign did not take place without intrigues and provocative accusations. Ahead of the runoff, Bibilov accused Dzhioyeva in television debates of trying to win the election with support from Tbilisi. Bibilov said that ethnic Georgians were leading Dzhioyeva's campaign in Akhalgori, a district predominately populated by ethnic Georgians, which before the August, 2008 war was under Tbilisi's control. Dzhioyeva responded to the accusations by referring to the results of the vote in Akhalgori during the first round, saying that she had received there only 150 votes against Bibilov's 600.

Talking to The Messenger, Dmitry Sanakoyev, head of the Pro-Georgian Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia said that Dzhioyeva is more likely to win, due to the level of protest among the electorate in Tskhinvali. "Dzhioyeva will definitely win the elections if no challenge is mounted ", he said.

According to the head of the South Ossetian Central Election Commission Bela Plieva, the second round of elections broke the minimum 30% barrier of voters' activity.

The international community excluding Russia and some authoritarian states continues an approach of non-recognition towards the elections in Georgia's breakaway regions. According to GUAM, an organization that encompasses Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova, the elections in the occupied regions cannot be legitimate due to ethnic cleansing, as a result of which the majority of the local population was expelled, and accordingly does not participate in elections. The representatives of NATO and the EU also do not recognize elections in the regions, reaffirming support for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Incumbent President Eduard Kokoity has served two terms and is barred by the republic's constitution from serving a third consecutive term in office.