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S. Ossetian attempts to choose President in repeat election

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, March 26
The repeat presidential election in Georgian’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia was held by the region’s Central Election Commission (CEC) on March 25. According to the commission’s chair Irina Gasieva, more than 50% of the population cast their ballots. There were no results available at the time of publication.

This time, neither of the key former candidates – opposition leader Alla Jioyeva or Kremlin protege Anatoli Bibilov, who was supported by ex-President Eduard Kokoity – ran in the election.

Two of the candidates are believed to be frontrunners in the race – the breakaway region’s long-time envoy to Moscow Dmitry Medoev, and ex-chief of the security service Leonid Tibilov. The other two candidates are special envoy for human rights issues David Sanakoev, and leader of the communist party Stanislav Kochiev. A runoff will take place if none of the four candidates garners more than half the votes in Sunday’s poll. Sanakoev was quoted as saying that there is a good likelihood of a second round.

All participating candidates are believed to be loyal to the Kremlin and Kokoity. However, in their campaign speeches, candidates distanced themselves from their former leader, who is believed to retain significant political influence in the region after stepping down from the post of President in December after a ten-year rule.

Tibilov, who was defeated in the 2006 presidential elections, is seen to be best positioned to attract the votes of former opposition candidate Alla Jioyeva’s supporters, as Tibilov’s candidacy was endorsed by former Russian free-style-wrestling team trainer Jambolat Tedeev, who is a fierce opponent of Kokoity and who supported Jioyeva’s candidacy in the November election.

Jioyeva, however, refused to endorse any of four candidates. After her win in last fall's election was annulled by the CEC due to unspecified violations, she planned to hold a self-inauguration on February 10, condemning the planned repeat election on Sunday as illegitimate. A police raid mere days before the inauguration put Jioyeva in hospital, and she now lives under unofficial house arrest.

In a March 23 interview with Russian-language news service Ekho Kavkaza, Jioyeva said that she has “no right” to support any of the candidates, as in 2001 she campaigned for Kokoity, who failed to deliver on his promises, which prompted her to join the opposition. She also said that she has had no chance to thoroughly study each candidate’s platform because of her “isolation”. But, she added, all four candidates running for President “have been thoroughly selected” by “certain forces".

Vice-Speaker of Parliament, Yuri Dzitsoiti, was more specific, claiming last month that the remaining candidates are only those who “have been agreed [upon] in Moscow".

Elections in the breakaway regions are denounced as illegitimate by Tbilisi and the international community, with the exception of Russia and a handful of smaller countries, who have recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.