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S. Ossetia narrows presidential race down to four

By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, March 2
The South Ossetian Central Election Commission (CEC) has registered four candidates for the repeat presidential runoff on March 25, according to local news agency RES.

The registered candidates include former chief of the breakaway region’s security service, Leonid Tibilov; special envoy for human rights, David Sanakoev; leader of the Communist Party, Stanislav Kochiev; and South Ossetia's Ambassador to Moscow, Dmitry Medoev.

It is widely believed that the Moscow "favourite" is Ambassador Medoev, however, he rejects such speculation. As he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (REF/RL) Russian-language service, “Considering today’s reality, it is impossible to be someone’s protege”.

According to the CEC, initially there were total of 22 would-be candidates, however, three of them withdrew from the election, while others failed the mandatory Ossetian and Russian language tests. Still others were barred from running on the grounds of inaccuracies in their lists of supporters’ signatures.

Former South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity is accused of barring opposition leaders from running. Although he has formally quit his post as President, he is believed to retain significant power through his allies in the legislative and executive branches.

Barring opposition candidates from running was “predictable,” according to the Vice-Speaker of Parliament, Yuri Dzitsoiti, who was also refused registration.

“I have said it a number of times previously: only several candidates will be left – those who have been agreed [to] in Moscow,” he told Ekho Kavkaza of REF/RL on February 25.

According to Dimitry Sanakoev, head of the pro-Georgian Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia, only those candidates loyal to the Kremlin may participate in the repeat elections. “There is no opposition candidate registered for these elections. Only those who will be easily controlled by the Kremlin may participate,” he said.

Sanakoev believes that the chaos that resulted from the disputed November elections was welcomed by the Russian government. “In fact, Russia achieved a favorable result, [as] the Ossetian people lost their faith in elections,” he remarked.

The repeat elections were set after the results of last November's presidential runoff, won by opposition candidate Alla Jioyeva, were annulled by the South Ossetian Supreme Court. Jioyeva, who denounced the repeat election as illegitimate, planned to inaugurate herself on February 10, but was hospitalized a day earlier after a raid on her office by law enforcement officers.