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South Ossetian Elections Descend into Farce

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, November 30
"The Supreme Court of the breakaway South Ossetia judges the outcome of the so-called presidential elections as invalid due to violations", reports the Russian news agency RIA. "The election results have been recognized as invalid. The facts regarding violations were approved".

Later on the Chairman of the so-called Supreme Court Atsamaz Bichenov told RIA NOVOSTI that Alla Jioeva, the winner of the supposedly fraudulent elections, will not be eligible to participate in the next elections, which are supposed to be held within two months.

"Alla Jioeva will not be able to participate in repeat elections. She is deprived of this right due to the falsifications and violations taken place in the past elections, which were approved by the court," said Bichenov.

The Kremlin supported candidate Anatoly Bibilov, who lost the race for the region’s leadership to Jioeva, filed a complaint claiming electoral violations on Monday morning, just after the results were announced.

According to results announced by the Central Election Commission on Monday, the 62-year-old former school teacher and ex-education minister Jioeva, succeeded in collecting 56.74% of the vote; whereas the breakaway region’s emergency situations minister, Kremlin favorite Bibilov, who was also endorsed by outgoing leader Eduard Kokoity, had 40% of the vote.

Hundreds of Jioeva’s supporters, nonetheless, gathered on Tskhinvali’s central square. Jioeva told supporters that they gathered to celebrate the victory not to stage a color revolution, according to OSINFORM news agency.

The Russian daily Kommersant reported on November 29, citing unnamed officials from the breakaway region’s government, that there were two reasons why Jioeva’s victory was unacceptable for the ruling elite in Tskhinvali. Firstly, it was because of personal enmity more related not directly to Jioeva, but to those who are behind her, in particular Russian free-style-wrestling team trainer, Jambolat Tedeev – outgoing South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity's fierce opponent. Tedeev himself wanted to run for the breakaway region’s leadership, but was barred on the grounds of failing to meet the 10-year residency requirement. Tedeev eventually transferred his support to Jioeva's candidacy.

Back in 2001, Tedeev and his elder brother Ibrahim helped Kokoity to come into power in the breakaway region, but later because of confrontation the brothers parted ways with Kokoity. In 2006 Ibrahim Tedeev was killed in Vladikavkaz, in North Ossetia.

At the time there were conflicting reports in the Russian media about the possible motives behind that murder with versions varying from “criminal score-settling” to political motives as Ibrahim Tedeev was killed ahead of the presidential elections in breakaway South Ossetia in which Kokoity won his second and final term in office.

“If he [Jambolat Tedeev] gains power here, we will witness the launch of score-settlings between the clans; we do not need it,” the unnamed source told Kommersant.

Yet, there is another reason why the ruling elite in Tskhinvali is against Jioeva’s victory. According to the same source, Jioeva's victory would show to “Moscow and personally to Dmitry Medvedev that his opinion means nothing for us.” Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev openly supported Anatoly Bibilov when the two met in Vladikavkaz a week before the runoff.

This could have negative consequences for South Ossetia. Kommersant wrote that the defeat of a candidate openly supported by the Kremlin in small South Ossetia, “which fully depends on Russia, is dangerous for Moscow ahead of the parliamentary and presidential elections” in Russia. Such an outcome “will demonstrate the Kremlin’s weakness,” the Russian daily wrote.

According to Mamuka Areshidze, the imitation of democratic elections always ends up with such outcome. “Indeed anything should be anticipated, however, I do not think that the population will protest this decision, or in better case they will boycott Bibilov’s presidency."

The machinations and incompetence shown in holding the elections uneventfully is a blow to any claims the South Ossetia political elite had of representing the people or having anything like democratic credentials. Such developments might now see the Kremlin and Kokoity endorsed candidate Bibilov the president. However the manner of such a victory would not improve the damage to South Ossetia's reputation.